2020/21 Evidencing Community Radio Needs on FM

The Community Media Association is conducting a survey to gauge the potential interest of community media projects that aspire to obtain a full-time 5-year community radio licence on FM. This survey will close in January 2021.

The first round of licensing for small-scale digital audio broadcasting closed in November 2020 and the invitation to apply for the second round is expected to open in early 2021.

Small-scale DAB will bring forward increased opportunities for community radio stations to broadcast on the new digital platform. However, the CMA is investigating the level of residual demand to broadcast on analogue spectrum from aspiring community radio stations.

Therefore, the CMA is undertaking a survey to assess the interest in applications for an analogue community radio licence that, in particular, meet some of the following criteria, namely:

a) where an analogue community radio licence has been handed back and the frequency is still vacant

b) areas where a potential community radio project is in an advanced state of preparation to broadcast

c) where temporary Covid-19 short-term restricted service licence services are still operating

d) in areas of high incidence of Covid-19

e) in areas with a high index of poverty where SSDAB take-up by listeners may be lower than average

f) rural areas of low population where SSDAB might be economically unviable

If Ofcom is able to consider a licensing round of short duration, as was undertaken in Northampton earlier in 2020 (which ran for a little under two months from 15th May to 13th July), then potential applications might be limited to projects that are in an “advanced state of preparation to broadcast” - that is to say that they are currently broadcasting on the Internet and/or they have previously considered applying for a community radio licence and have put some thought into preparing a licence application.

Adopting this approach might mean that Ofcom has the capacity to consider running a short round of analogue licensing that would not unduly impact on the priority of progressing small-scale DAB licensing.

The link to our survey which is now open is below: