Ofcom sets out proposals on commercial Radio licensing

    London (ots) - The Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to award licences for FM commercial radio services in open competition based on statutory criteria. Previously this duty was undertaken by the Radio Authority.

    Ofcom is today publishing its proposals for the process for licensing new FM commercial radio services. These form part of Ofcom's broader strategy toward the radio sector which will be developed during 2004, including:

    - A new approach to Community Radio, to be set out in separate    
proposals later this month. Community Radio will build on        
radio's potential for giving local communities a stronger voice.

    - A review of digital radio, examining the options for further and faster take-up of all digital radio services.        - Continued support for Restricted Services Licences (RSLs), which give hundreds of organisations each year the opportunity to go on air.

    - New guidance on localness in radio.

    The key proposals published by Ofcom today are as follows:

    Firstly, a simpler, clearer process to apply for a licence, including:

    - Clear guidance on how the statutory criteria relating to a particular licence will apply.

    - A timetable for the licences to be offered over the year ahead.

    - More information available to applicants when a licence is offered, including an analysis of the relevant market.

    - A reduction in the amount of information that applicants need to send to Ofcom, with a better focus on providing the information which matters.

    - A simpler approach to content regulation by inviting applicants to submit their own format - a summary of a station's proposed style and character. The format of the winning applicant will be included in their licence terms.

    Secondly, new proposals for the FM licences that will be offered by Ofcom in the next two years:

    - In total at least 35 commercial FM licences remain available for licensing.

    - These include potential licences not identified before, in Bournemouth and in Stoke-on Trent.

    Ofcom is also seeking views on options for offering either larger regional licences or a greater number of smaller licences, in four areas of the UK:

              North-East England
              South Wales
              South-West England; and,
              South Hampshire/Bournemouth

    Decisions on radio licence awards will be made by a Committee of the Ofcom Main Board; further details of the decision-making process are set out in the consultation document.

    The full consultation document, together with a Summary, is available on Ofcom's website at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/   Responses are invited by 11 March 2004.

    Ofcom intends to resume licensing as soon as possible. The regulator proposes to publish  shortly a timetable for the first licences to be offered under the new process in order to give potential applicants the necessary time to prepare proposals.

    This timetable will be prepared on the basis of the proposals in the consultation document, but will be without prejudice to the results of the consultation. The first advertisements of new radio licences under the new process are planned for May/June 2004.



    Ofcom is the independent regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

    Our duties include:

        The promotion of choice, quality and value in electronic
communications services, where appropriate by encouraging competition
between the providers of those services

        Ensuring the most efficient use of the radio communications
spectrum - the airwaves used for the transmission of all non-military
wireless communications services

        Ensuring a wide range of electronic communications services,
including broadband, is available across the UK

        Ensuring a wide range of TV and radio programmes of high quality
and wide appeal

        Maintaining plurality in the media by ensuring a sufficiently
broad range of ownership

        The protection of audiences against offensive or harmful
material, unfairness or the infringement of privacy on TV and radio

                                  This information is provided by RNS
                  The company news service from the London Stock Exchange

Internet: www.newsaktuell.ch

Ofcom Media Office
Tel. +44/20/7981'3033

For further details please visit www.ofcom.org.uk.

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