Ofcom has opened the door to a fresh intake of applications for community radio licences. This comes in response to significant interest expressed by more than 270 individuals and community groups wanting to take to the air and provide services for their local community.
Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area with a coverage radius of up to 5km and are run on a not-for-profit basis. They reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests. For example, you can listen to stations which cater for urban or experimental music, while others are aimed at younger people, religious communities or the Armed Forces and their families.
This is the third wave of licensing since the first community radio station took to the airwaves in 2005. Since then, a new community radio station has launched, on average, every 10 days. To date, 228 community radio licences have been issued and around 11 million people are now able to tune into community radio stations across the UK. This figure is up 17% year-on-year and an increase of more than a third (36%) since 2008.
Ofcom Director of Radio Content and Broadcast Licensing, Peter Davies, said: “Over the past six years community radio stations have provided a voice for hundreds of local communities across the UK. Our postbag has been inundated with a high level of interest for new licences, which gives a strong indication of the likely level of demand in this licensing round.”
Applications for new licences will open on a region by region basis, starting today with Wales and south west England. There are seven regions in total. Scotland is second in the process, with applications opening before the end of 2011. This will be followed by Northern Ireland in the first half of 2012 and then four English regions – one every six months – that finish with the South East (see table below).
Potential applicants should note that there are large parts of the UK where there are no suitable FM frequencies available. This is mainly in major towns and cities.
Small scale radio is highly valued
Recent Ofcom research reveals that these stations are highly valued by listeners, offering unique benefits that cannot be delivered through other media. According to listeners, being informed and keeping up-to-date is one of the most useful things about small scale local radio stations. They are the preferred source for local information, with 8 out of 10 listeners tuning into their local radio station first before any other media to find out what is going on in their local area.
Regions and timetable
|Region / nation||Expected date for inviting applications||Closing date for applications|
|1||South west England and Wales||Friday 1 April 2011||Thursday 21 July 2011|
|2||Scotland||End of 2011||3 months after opening date|
|3||Northern Ireland||First half 2012||3 months after opening date|
|4||Northeast England and Cumbria||Second half 2012||3 months after opening date|
|5||Yorkshire and the Humber and the north west of England||First half 2013||3 months after opening date|
|6||West Midlands, East Midlands (including Lincolnshire) and the east of England||Second half 2013||3 months after opening date|
|7||South east England||First half 2014||3 months after opening date|
The full statement is available here.