Community radio stations across the UK are set to benefit from a package of changes that will help them thrive and continue to provide a valued radio service to their local communities.
Current rules mean there are strict financial limits in place on how much income the 217 community radio stations in the UK can generate from advertising and sponsorship. Under the planned changes, all community radio stations will all be able to raise at least £15,000 in income from commercial sources before any limits kick in.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Digital Economy, said:
Community radio stations are at the heart of the localities they serve. They provide an important relevant service alongside the BBC and commercial radio. These changes will make sure that community radio stations can raise the funding they need to remain viable and can continue to provide a valuable community focused service.
Welcoming the news Dom Chambers, Chair of Community Media Association, said:
Community radio has proved itself a powerful medium that drives positive social change by impacting on participants, communities and audiences - the Government really get that.
The Community Radio Order has provided a supportive framework for community radio to bed into the local broadcasting landscape. The changes to relax the rules around commercial revenue and allow for a further five-year licence renewal will be particularly welcome by sector. I hope the changes will also trigger the sector to grow and fulfill it’s potential working with Government.
Under the current rules in the Community Radio Order 2004, most community radio stations can only raise 50 per cent of their income from commercial sources, with 19 stations not allowed to make any money from advertising at all as they compete in the same market as small commercial radio stations.
The Government is making these changes to the rules following a public consultation last year. Those community radio stations operating in areas covered by small independently operated commercial stations will only be allowed to raise any further income above the new £15,000 limit where the commercial station has taken advantage of the Digital Economy Act to share premises. However, some protections will remain to safeguard independently owned commercial stations in smaller markets.
Martyn Haynes, director at 101.8 WCR FM in Wolverhampton, said:
As a community radio station run entirely by volunteers, we welcome the funding changes that will allow us to continue broadcasting across the airwaves of Wolverhampton. Over the years our profile in the city has grown and we look forward to a more stable footing as we continue to provide a wide range of music and speech output as well as delivering training and work experience.
Shirley Ludford, station manager and trainer at Swindon 105.5 community radio station, said:
I am delighted at this news, which will enable me and the team to spend more time on the delivery of our service and less on fundraising and grant applications. This change will allow us greater freedom to be creative in developing the station and securing its future. It’s great news to start the year after ending it with a Queens Award for our service to the town.
The Government has also announced that it will provide Ofcom the power to extend licences for community radio for a third term, for a period up to five years, where it is satisfied the community radio station continues to meet current licencing conditions. The changes will give further stability to the sector and allow the early pioneer stations launched before 2008 to continue to support their communities up to the early 2020s.
Notes for editors
The amendments to the Community Radio Order 2004 will be laid before Parliament shortly
The Government has published a response to the consultation on Community Radio
The Government has also published the Impact Assessment
Details of community radio stations in the UK can be found on the Community Media Association website