Ministers Signal Further Relaxation to British Radio Regulation

31 October 2002

The British government is considering further relaxation of radio industry regulation after pressure from broadcasters.

Unveiled earlier this year, the draft Communications Bill proposed that ownership restrictions be overhauled so that in any local area there are at least three independent stations plus those run by the publicly owned British Broadcasting Corporation.

However, radio companies such as Capital Radio and GWR argued that such constraints would be far stricter than the regulations imposed on other media.

As a result, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has indicated it will reduce the obligation to two commercial stations plus the BBC.

• Separately, ministers have confirmed that the BBC will face fines of up to £250,000 ($388,847; €395,857) if it fails to meet quotas for independent and regional production or breaches taste and decency standards.

To be levied by communications regulator Ofcom and paid into the Treasury, the fines are the first such penalties the corporation has ever faced.

The government rejected the BBC’s argument that the payments would punish the public - which pays the licence fee that funds the broadcaster - pointing out that it was up to the corporation to meet its requirements and avoid being fined.

However, although Ofcom will regulate the BBC’s production and its standards of taste and decency, the policing of its public service remit will remain the job of the corporation’s board of governors.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff