Advanced Television

10-year reprieve for UK analogue radio

July 3, 2020

By Colin Mann

Listeners of popular UK radio stations such as Classic FM and TalkSport will be able to access their favourite analogue shows for another ten years thanks to new government plans.

Media Minister John Whittingdale has set out how commercial radio will be licensed over the next decade so that listeners can continue to enjoy their stations of choice despite rapid changes in technology and radio listening.

Nearly 60 per cent of all radio listening is now via digital devices, but analogue stations remain an important platform for millions of listeners who still tune into FM and AM radio services every day.

Several FM and AM commercial radio licences are due to expire from early 2022. Provided the stations also broadcast on digital radio, the government has decided to allow Ofcom to renew these analogue licences for a further ten-year period.

“As we move into an increasingly digital world we’re making sure the licensing landscape for radio is fair and up-to-date and allows audiences to enjoy a wide range of high-quality stations.

“Today’s step ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of treasured FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade,” stated Whittingdale.

“We will soon be turning our attention to providing similar long-term certainty to support the future growth of digital radio.”

The government’s decision follows extensive consultation with industry and clarifies the long-term licensing arrangements for FM and AM radio services in the light of the shift to digital listening.

It will help support further investment and innovation in DAB but also provides certainty to commercial radio as it seeks to manage the financial impact of Coronavirus.

The legislation to amend the Broadcasting Act 1990 to enable Ofcom to renew these licences will be laid in parliament shortly.

Following the decision on analogue licenses, the Government will now consider the position of DAB multiplex licences. Multiplexes consist of a number of digital radio stations transmitted on a single frequency, which is a more efficient method of transmission than analogue radio’s individual frequencies.

Government will consult on changes to extend national and local digital radio multiplex licences by the end of 2020, in order to help futureproof the radio industry’s wider licensing structure.

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