Radio Bosses Slam Britain's Communications Watchdog

08 June 2007

LONDON: Britain's radio bosses are not rapt with admiration for Ofcom, the nation's communications regulator - or so it seemed at this week's Westminster Media Forum seminar on the Future of Radio.

William Rogers, ceo of regional radio group UKRD, accused the watchdog of taking a "Nero approach" to the regulation of commercial radio, implying that the regulator is scraping its fiddle while Britain's ailing commercial radio sector goes up in smoke.

Quoth Rogers: "The sector cannot respond to changing market conditions or commercial imperatives when it needs to be [doing so] because Ofcom does not permit it. Apparently, sympathetic rhetoric is one thing, action seems to be quite another."

That view was echoed by Andrew Harrison, ceo of industry representative body, the RadioCentre, who suggested that Ofcom has "far more freedom to act within its current powers than it is choosing to take".

He also complained that it ought to be "championing the change of legislation, not just kicking its shoes into long grass".

Wriggling in the hot seat was Peter Davies, Ofcom's director of radio and multimedia, who acknowledged that the radio business has faced "tough conditions" over the past couple of years.

In a half-hearted defence of his employer Davies countered: "Regulation is only one element in the mix and probably not the most important, but relaxing regulation in some areas may help and we will do what we can."

Davies also assured sceptical delegates that Ofcom's current Future of Radio dialogue with the industry was a genuine consultation, despite misgivings voiced by a questioning delegate.

The consultation period ends on 29 June.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff