Press release

Commercial radio given more freedom on content

Commercial radio stations will have greater freedom to increase their choice of music genres and respond to the needs of listeners under new rules announced by Digital Minister Matt Hancock today (Monday 18 December).


Under the current regulations, analogue radio stations have to play a particular genre of music as part of their licence agreement with Ofcom.

By removing these outdated rules that restrict the growth of the sector, the stations will no longer need to play specific genres as part of their licences. There will also be no requirement for Ofcom to approve changes to programme formats.

However, with recent research showing that radio is the most trusted medium for news, strong requirements will remain on commercial radio stations to provide national and local news as well as travel information and weather.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said:

The UK’s thriving commercial radio sector is highly valued by local communities across the country. As radio moves closer to a digital switchover we need to give them the freedom to adapt and compete with online stations.

Removing these unnecessary burdens means commercial radio stations will have the freedom and flexibility to respond to their local audience and give listeners greater choice.

Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre said:

Radiocentre welcomes the Government’s plans for deregulation of the pre-internet age rules that govern commercial radio. The new rules will give stations greater flexibility in how they operate, unlocking the potential of commercial radio and giving listeners even more choice from their favourite radio brands. We now look forward to the Government enacting these sensible changes at the earliest opportunity.

Mims Davies MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Commercial Radio, said:

It is great news that the Government has published its response to the commercial radio deregulation consultation. I agree with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport that deregulation is a necessary and positive step for the industry.

I look forward to working with the APPG to ensure that legislation is introduced as soon as possible to support our local stations and ensure they continue to build on their current successes. This is a really important industry and I am pleased the Government is giving it the support it needs.

The government also intends to seek powers to enable Ofcom to license overseas services on UK DAB. This means that digital radio listeners will now be able to listen to stations based in the Republic of Ireland and the government will gradually extend this to stations licensed in the European Union.


Notes to Editors

  • The government launched a major consultation on proposals to deregulate commercial radio in February 2017. It sought to make changes to the outdated requirements that govern the commercial radio industry, which differ greatly between analogue and digital platforms. Analogue services are currently regulated by complex and burdensome requirements whilst digital-only services enjoy lighter-touch requirements in comparison
  • The government’s response to the consultation can be read online at:
  • Recent research by Radiocentre highlights commercial radio listeners’ views on news and trust. Commercial radio listeners said they value regular news updates during local emergencies (when 60% turn to radio); in the morning (when 83% turn to radio); and in the car (when 85% turn to radio): Breaking news: How listeners value commercial radio news
  • The government will be legislating to give effect to the proposals as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows According to Radio Centre, commercial radio stations broadcast over 13 hours of public value content per week (including news and sport, charity appeals and local events): Action stations: The public value of commercial radio
Published 18 December 2017