CMA response to DCMS consultation

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DCMS Consultation on Amendments to the Community Radio Licensing Regime
Response from the Community Media Association.  Also available as a PDF

1.	Do you agree with the proposed criteria for Ofcom to apply when
considering a 5 year extension?
The CMA agrees that there needs to be provision in law for the extension
of community radio licences.  We believe that where a station has
demonstrated clearly its performance on delivering social gain and
meeting all other aspects of its key commitments, it should be able to
apply for a licence extension after five years, and then again at the
end of the next five year period rather than as a one off.  If the
government does not accept this, then there needs to be a clear, timely
and transparent process for reapplication in place for stations that
have already had one five year extension as they need to be able to plan
for the future.
2.    Do you think the 50% funding restriction from any one source
should be lifted?
The CMA strongly believes that the 50% funding restriction from any one
source should be lifted, particularly where grant and Service Level
Agreement funding is concerned.  Stations would need to take care that
the funder does not exert undue influence over the station, particularly
its editorial independence especially when the community might voice
opinions and views the funder does not like.  However we think that
would be a matter for the station, in ensuring that it meets its key
commitments, rather than something to be enshrined in law, as the
current funding restriction does.
Re the 50% rules on on air advertising and sponsorship, we reiterate our
response to the 2007 consultation on the Future of Radio:
We recognise the necessity that community radio delivers on all its
social gain/community benefit criteria and maintains editorial
independence.  We would urge the government to explore ways of measuring
this, regardless of the sources of income a station receives.  There are
many arguments for retaining in statute a fixed percentage limit on
income from on air advertising and sponsorship as currently exists, and
indeed every survey the CMA has undertaken on this issue shows that a
large majority of licence holders want to retain the 50% limit.
However, any such limit is by nature arbitrary.  Therefore we would
advocate a change in approach, whereby there is no fixed limit, but a
requirement to ensure and demonstrate that there is more than one source
of income and that no particular source of funding exerts undue
influence on the character of a particular community radio station and
accountability to its community.  Many stations are affected by the
current rules, because they have to turn away small, very local
advertisers (who would not otherwise advertise on commercial radio).

3.    i) Do you think that the rule prohibiting a community radio
station from being licensed if it would overlap with an existing local
radio service whose MCA is no more than 50,000 adults, should be lifted?
ii) If so, should the advertising and sponsorship restriction be
applied to community radio stations that overlap with local radio
services of up to 150,000 adults?
i)   We fully agree that the rule prohibiting the licensing of a station
whose MCA is less than 50,000 should be lifted.
ii)  However, we cannot agree with the further restriction on stations
whose MCA is up to 150,000, preventing them either partly or entirely
from receiving on air advertising and sponsorship.  In our view this
amounts to restraint of trade and is in breach of competition rules.
Therefore we would propose that the rules governing the level of on air
advertising and sponsorship, whatever they may be, apply equally to all
community radio stations, whatever their MCA and regardless of any other
businesses that exist in their locality.

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