Government to give commercial radio “more freedom” on content

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced that commercial stations will no longer need to play specific genres as part of their licences. There will also be no requirement for Ofcom to approve changes to programme formats.

Under current regulations, analogue radio stations have to play a particular genre of music as part of their licence agreement with Ofcom. The Government says these rules are “outdated” and “restrict the growth of the sector”.

However, the Government explains, recent research has shown that radio is the most trusted medium for news, so strong requirements will remain on commercial radio stations to provide national and local news as well as travel information and weather.

Matt Hancock, Digital Minister (as he was), said: “The UK’s thriving commercial radio sector is highly valued by local communities across the country. As radio moves closer to a digital switchover we need to give them the freedom to adapt and compete with online stations.”

Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre said: “Radiocentre welcomes the Government’s plans for deregulation of the pre-internet age rules that govern commercial radio. The new rules will give stations greater flexibility in how they operate, unlocking the potential of commercial radio and giving listeners even more choice from their favourite radio brands. We now look forward to the Government enacting these sensible changes at the earliest opportunity.”

The Government says that it also intends to seek powers to enable Ofcom to license overseas services on UK DAB. This means that digital radio listeners will now be able to listen to stations based in the Republic of Ireland and the Government will gradually extend this to stations licensed in the European Union. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.