After months of consultation, the government has announced a string of changes to the way community radio stations in the UK are funded.
Community radio stations like Asian Star (London), Awaz FM (Scotland) and Raaj FM (Birmingham) to name a few, will now be able to make at least 15,000 in income from commercial sources before any limits kick in. The announcement was made today after a consultation by the DCMS, which commenced in February last year.
Under the current rules in the Community Radio Order 2004, most community radio stations can only raise 50 per cent of their income from commercial sources.
The Government has also announced that it will provide Ofcom the power to extend licences for community radio for a third term, for a period up to five years, where it is satisfied the community radio station continues to meet current licencing conditions. The changes will give further stability to the sector and allow the early pioneer stations launched before 2008 to continue to support their communities up to the early 2020s.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Digital Economy, said, “Community radio stations are at the heart of the localities they serve. They provide an important relevant service alongside the BBC and commercial radio. These changes will make sure that community radio stations can raise the funding they need to remain viable and can continue to provide a valuable community focused service.”
Commercial radio body, RadioCentre was not impressed with the changes. Siobhan Kenny, Chief Executive of RadioCentre said, This is a disappointing outcome and will be a real cause for concern for small commercial radio stations where margins are already squeezed.
The changes proposed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) risk blurring the lines between community and commercial stations and puts them in direct competition for limited local advertising, alongside local press, local television and online.
Community radio can perform a valuable complementary role to commercial radio and the BBC, but it must offer something significantly different to the communities it serves. Any changes must be accompanied by a renewed emphasis on enforcement and compliance with the key commitments of these stations.