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Local Radio Franchises

Volume 540: debated on Thursday 9 February 2012

1. What assessment he has made of the potential for local radio franchises and licensing; and if he will make a statement. (94329)

We have made no assessment of the potential for radio franchises because radio licensing is a matter for Ofcom, which awards licences via a “beauty parade” mechanism, assessing individual applicants’ ability to deliver services for the local area.

I thank the Minister for that reply. News content aside—[Interruption]should there not be more flexibility in licences and franchises to allow commercial radio to respond to market conditions?

I found it slightly difficult to hear the question, but I think my hon. Friend was asking about flexibility in content regulation. That will be an important matter for the Green Paper as we look at communications regulation in the round.

The difficulty in hearing was not attributable to the questioner but to ministerial nose-blowing, which is entirely understood.

Follow that, Mr Speaker!

BBC Radio Merseyside is the most popular radio station on Merseyside and is a lifeline for many elderly and disabled people. Rather than setting up local radio franchises, would the Government not do better to support much-loved existing local BBC radio such as Radio Merseyside?

I heard the hon. Gentleman loud and clear, and I am delighted that the chairman of the BBC Trust has made it clear that the BBC will review its original plans for BBC local radio, which is very good news.