Radio Authority chairman Richard Hooper will today present proposals for a marked easing of the rules governing ownership of commercial radio stations. If implemented, these will offer a significant expansion mandate to larger existing radio groups such as Capital, GLR, Scottish Radio Holdings and the Wireless Group.

In an address to the Radio Festival, Hooper will tell delegates that the Authority has recommended to the government that it abolish the existing points system of controlling radio ownership. Instead the Authority proposes that ownership of existing analogue and digital radio stations be governed by "normal competition rules at the UK-wide level, with plurality rules applying only in individual localities".

In a supplementary proposal, the Authority offers another potentially lucrative bonus to commercial radio operators: an increase in the licence term from eight years to twelve. This could be extended further still by launching digital services.

Hooper believes that regulation of the medium is still justified, citing estimates that 80% of total radio listening will still be via universally accessible terrestrial services by 2010. "Radio as we know it today is not going to be made obsolete by the plethora of new communications technologies jostling for attention," he will argue.

The regulatory body has no plans to recommend the lifting of the ban on national newspapers owning a national commercial radio station, believing the rule necessary to maintain plurality.

News source: The Times (London)