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UK: rules for analogue and digital radio are relaxed

In the UK, a new media law is in the works to significantly simplify regulations for commercial radio and TV stations. For now, this is a proposal that was presented last week. For analogue stations in particular, there is quite a bit of impact.

The current legislation for commercial radio dates back to the period when only FM and AM were listened to and digital radio did not yet exist. In order to ensure plurality on the air, strict rules were then imposed on who wanted to broadcast. But because radio listening is increasingly done digitally, the first plans to further relax the rules were presented as early as 2017.

A gutter portion of these recommendations are now included in a new bill. With this, the government wants to create a level playing field for analogue and digital players. Because while there are strict rules for FM and AM, there are far fewer for digital projects.

More freedom in exchange for news

Thus, in the future, it will be easier for commercial FM broadcasters to change the musical format. Now permission must still be sought from media regulator Ofcom. In the future, local stations will also be allowed to share more programmes with their counterparts outside their own region. In return, the local news offering on both analogue and digital platforms is expected to be retained or increased.

In recent years, the rules for local stations have been relaxed several times, so that nowadays only three hours a day local productions have to be broadcast. Moreover, they no longer need to be programmed in the morning. Something that was previously an absolute requirement.

The discontinuation of FM will not take place until 2030 at the earliest. Ofcom will therefore be given the option to extend licences until the switch-off date. In addition, it is stipulated that the three nationwide commercial stations Talksport, Classic FM and Absolute Radio, after returning their analogue licence, will retain capacity on Digital one’s nationwide DAB multiplex.

The troublesome rules for operators of local DAB networks when changing the channel offer are also largely scrapped. Absolute Radio is the first nationwide commercial radio station in the United Kingdom to cease analogue broadcasting. Although owner can still get a fine because the old regulations were currently still in force, when the FM band was abandoned.

Another important change is that foreign radio stations can apply for a licence to broadcast via DAB+. A list of countries has yet to be drawn up.

Brian O'Neil

Brian O'Neil is the founder and chief editor. He was a journalist in the original LS TV before it closed in 2017.

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