Forecasts of rapid consolidation in the UK radio market may be wide of the mark, according to the outgoing head of the sector's regulator.
Radio Authority chairman/ceo David Witherow believes that, once ownership laws are relaxed at the end of the year, the pace of change will be slower than many pundits have predicted.
"Local ownership rules, and competition law, will apply; so will format control," Witherow told the Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference. "While share values are well down from their peak, they still look high to potential buyers from outside the industry.
"It is more likely that we will see convergence of interest, with some companies finding synergies with others rather than outright takeovers, at least in the short term."
The soon-to-be-implemented Communications Act will allow greater consolidation and open up the market to companies from outside the European Union. However, Witherow believes there are still opportunities to expand organically, by launching new stations and services, both analogue and digital. He also predicts that commercial radio will take a greater slice of media adspend.
Witherow is to retire when the Radio Authority passes its duties to communications supra-regulator Ofcom at the end of December.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff