Ofcom sets out guidelines for community radio operators

Ofcom has published what will be its approach to the regulation and licensing of community radio, after the House of Lords gave the official goahead to the Community Radio Order 2004 last week.

Applications can be made for the first new community radio licence from 1 September until 23 November, subject to a non-refundable application fee of £600 for each application, said the regulator. Forms are available on the Ofcom website.

Under this not-for-profit tier of broadcasting, applicants will be invited to apply for community radio licences once a year and can specify the communities in which they want to operate, rather than Ofcom deciding where a radio service should be, as is the case with commercial radio.

The licences will be valid for a maximum of five years and stations will be subject to an annual Broadcasting Act licence fee and Wireless Telegraphy Act licence fee of about £1,000.

Under the regulations governing community radio, stations will also be required to abide by Ofcom’s Programme Code covering news and current affairs, programmes and sponsorship, and the Advertising Code.

Community radio licensees will submit an annual progress report on how they have achieved their aims, along with financial details, which Ofcom intends to make public.

The regulator will conduct a review of the sector two years after the first stations begin broadcasting.

“Stations must be funded from multiple sources – no more than 50 per cent of funding can come from a single source,” say the guidelines published by Ofcom this week.

Broadcasting law also restricts funding received through on-air advertising and programme sponsorship to an upper limit of 50 per cent of a station’s income. Other cash sources allowed include UK government funding, the EU, National Lottery or charities, plus donations, subscriptions “or other community fund-raising activities”.

By Wale Azeez

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