(IV) ACCESS RADIO AND LOCAL TELEVISION |
310. The draft Bill contains proposals in Clause
179 to place on a firm statutory footing the "third tier"
of radio in the form of "access radio". There is already
provision for community-based, non-profit-making radio stations,
but these have hitherto been restricted in licence duration or
coverage or been on a pilot basis only.
The Government sees the potential of such radio stations to help
increase active local community involvement, provide a nursery
for future broadcasters and satisfy demand for access to broadcasting
resources from specific communities, whether based on locality,
ethnic or cultural background or other common interests.
311. The Community Media Association has welcomed
the general principles underlying the framework established in
Clause 179. Three
practical issues will need to be tackled if a significant access
radio sector is to develop. First, OFCOM will need to ensure that
adequate FM frequencies are available.
Second, access radio must develop in ways that maintain its distinctiveness
from the commercial radio sector, which itself often serves very
Third, a funding regime for access radio must be established that
enables it to complement rather than compete directly with commercial
radio. Clause 236 permits OFCOM to make grants to access radio
providers, but the sources of funding for such grants remain uncertain,
as does the extent to which commercial funding for access radio
is compatible with its distinctiveness from commercial radio and
would not undermine that sector.
We welcome the provisions in the draft Bill to enable the structured
development of a not-for-profit access radio sector, which has
the potential to enrich both broadcasting and community development.
It will be of paramount importance for OFCOM and the Secretary
of State to ensure that these powers are exercised in a way that
ensures the development of access radio that serves parts of society
that commercial radio fails presently to address.
312. Just as there is potential for access radio
to enhance the range of broadcasting services in the United Kingdom,
so there may be an opportunity for local television services to
widen the availability of distinct types of programming. At present,
local television is constrained by the nature of restricted service
licences, the costs of production and the limited access to cable
167 gives the Secretary of State power to provide for the development
of local television on digital terrestrial television. Channel
M, a Manchester-based local television service, argued that there
was a need to allow for the extension of existing restricted service
licences to cover more of the period before widespread or universal
availability of digital terrestrial television.
Contributors to our online forum also advanced the case for greater
priority to be given to community television in spectrum allocation.
Both Channel M and the Community Media Association argued for
extending to local television services the "must-carry"
privileges on all digital networks available to public service
Although we welcome the provision in Clause 167 to support
the development of local digital terrestrial television services,
we recommend that the Government and the existing regulators give
early consideration to means of fostering the development of local
television services before analogue switch-off, in order that
further provision may be made in the final Communications Bill
594 HC (2000-01) 161-I, paras 107-111; Ev 20, para
Policy, para 22.214.171.124. Back
Ev 574, para 7. Back
Ev 20, para 3(d); Ev 574, para 9; Q 71; contributions to online
forum by Mary Dowson (Bradford Community Broadcasting) and Peter
QQ 729-730. Back
QQ 71, 729; Ev 574, paras 16-18; Ev 251, paras 4.7-4.8; Ev 247,
paras 34-35. Back
Policy, para 126.96.36.199; Ev 574, para 11. Back
Ev 530. Back
Dave Rushton (Channel Six Dundee), Graham Mole (MyTV Network). Back
Ev 452; Ev 574, paras 10-15. Back