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Commercial Local Radio

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 4 July 2019

10. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the regulation of commercial local radio. (911749)

The regulatory framework for commercial radio on FM and AM set nearly 30 years ago has not kept pace with market changes, and we have taken steps to address that. I welcome Ofcom’s October 2018 changes to the localness guidance, which will reduce the burdens on commercial radio while maintaining requirements for local stations to provide local news and other content.

Given that media giant Global has cut no fewer than 11 local radio studios in England, despite making massive profits, is there not a danger that under those weaker Ofcom regulations commercial local radio will increasingly lose its localness, and broadcasts will be made from London or several regional centres?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern, but the localness guidelines are strict and tough, and will require large commercial radio corporations to have local studios. They will have to provide a serious amount of local news content, weather, driving information and so on, so I do not share his concern. It is up to Ofcom to police this, and it is doing a good job. We must remember that for local commercial radio, and indeed community radio, to be sustainable, they needed a lighter touch regulatory regime.

May I briefly beg your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to congratulate St Fagans Museum in my constituency on winning the museum of the year award, which was presented last night in a ceremony at the Science Museum?

The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) said earlier that we needed more local radio, but the results of this deregulation have been job cuts and fewer stations in what is a profitable commercial sector. Is it not time for the decision to be reviewed to assess its impact on localness, and to ensure that local radio does not just become national commercial radio?

The localness guidelines were published as recently as October last year, so I think it would be premature to announce a review of their impact, but I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that they were welcomed by both commercial and community radio stations. Ofcom has received about 700 expressions of interest in the small-scale DAB multiplexes for which we legislated last month. We hope to be able to complete that legislation by the end of the year so that Ofcom will be able to start issuing licences to hundreds of community radio stations up and down the country. I think that we will see a great growth in this fantastic sector.