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Independent Local Radio

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the development of independent local radio.

Our Green Paper "Radio: Choices and Opportunities", published in February, offered the prospect of additional radio services at national, local and community level. The new stations would operate alongside existing independent local radio services under a lighter regulatory regime. I hope shortly to be able to announce our conclusions in the light of the consultatives process. New legislation would be required to give effect to proposals for a new framework for radio.In the meantime, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has suggested that, in the current improved financial climate for independent local radio (ILR), it would be sensible for the authority to resume progress with the development of ILR in accordance with its statutory duties. Of the 69 areas approved in principle for ILR purposes by the Government by 1981, 13 remain unserved. The IBA proposes to advertise new ILR contracts in a form which will invite applications from local groups or existing ILR contractors, and to leave it to applicants to propose whether the new services would be free-standing or involve a link with another station. With a view to keeping these costs to a minimum, the IBA proposes to provide services on a single waveband rather than two, and to review its procedures and technical requirements. Contracts will be offered for the period until December 1994, when the last of the IBA's existing ILR contracts expires.The IBA's aim will be to provide an ILR service to at least some of those areas which do not have one at the present. The provision of such services will, of course, be compatible with the opening of further local radio services under new legislation as part of the expansion of radio foreseen in the Green Paper. I have invited the IBA to proceed case by case. The first two contracts to be advertised will be Cambridge and Newmarket and Eastbourne-Hastings.