CMA Meeting at Ofcom, 22nd November 2018

The Community Media Association met with Ofcom on Thursday 22nd November.

Some notes taken at the meeting are available from this link Ofcom_Notes_221118.pdf (113.0 KB)
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The agenda was as follows:

  • SSDAB - DCMS consultation response, EoIs published, next steps
  • DCMS - fourth licence terms/a future Community Radio (Amendment) Order
  • Radiocentre Report - CMA’s response
  • Progress update on coverage extensions/improvements
  • Update on the next round of CR licensing
  • Community Radio Fund update: 2nd Round, 2018-19
  • Update from CMA on the 2018 Community Media Conference
  • Update from the CMA on the Mapping Community Media event
  • Update from the CMA on other activity
  • AOB

With regards to this survey, NONE of the people who recently applied for a license and were refused appear to have been made aware of it.

There also appears to have been no publicity campaign surrounding it.

DCMS say that the CMA have been told to consult with the whole sector, which had clearly not happened.

Potentially therefore could this not look very bad on the CMA for not having dive what it was tasked to do, especially if the results were successfully challenged?

It also only has one day left to go apparently.

I don’t like to appear to be a trouble maker but it does disturb me this could end up badly backfiring.

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[I’ve updated this and moved it from another thread, but I hope it’s still useful]

The ongoing relationship with Ofcom has to be managed carefully and professionally, and needs to be based on trust and evidence. This also needs to work both ways. Lobbying for significant change to the remit of Ofcom, and the legislative direction that they are working under, will not be resolved in these private catch-up meetings.

If wider significant change is needed to the regulatory framework for community radio, then this has to be built into a long-term engagement programme that is resourced and planned more fully. A lobbying programme needs to be built on evidence and a clear understanding of the legal and regulatory structure of broadcasting legislation and how it interconnects with other legislation.

The approach that has been taken more recently in these meetings, and which will contribute to be advanced in future meetings, is about confidence. Primarily, so that we are able to play a meaningful and long-term role as a partner and equal of other lobby interests and groups. If we simply fly off the handle, or seek to rattle-the-cage for the sake of rattling-the-cage, then we will not achieve this.

The officers that we speak with have a job to do, and it is essential that we actively seek to understand the boundaries and the resource implications of these jobs. At all times we should be seen to make positive and constructive contributions to the forward planning that Ofcom has to deal with. However, we also have to help to mitigates any problems or difficulties that might result from the way the rules are applied to stations in practice.

The feedback that we gathered about any operational issues prior to the meeting was valuable and helped to illustrate some potential difficulties and showed common ground between us and Ofcom.

It feels frustrating sometimes, especially when we think about what we have to do in practice, but there is a lot of support at both Ofcom and DCMS for the participatory and social-value role of community radio, and the more that we can focus on that role, and provide positive evidence of what we achieve (on a very limited budget), the more that we are likely to be recognised as a partner in the development and engagement process.

We have limited resources, and if lobbying for political change in the way that community radio is regulated is a priority, then between us we will have to find a way to fund and resource that additional lobbying capability. As a group of volunteers (and one paid member of staff), who give up their time to become familiar with the issues discussed, and who are still able to meet with Ofcom and DCMS at all (and on mutually respectful terms), should be recognised as a considerable achievement.

I’ve not yet had a chance to summarise my notes from the meeting, which I will do without compromising the confidentiality of the meeting, but it was positive and constructive. There’s lots more to achieve and to build on, and any constructive input to this process, via this forum, will be explored. Thanks for the input.

Just to add one more note, it seems that the whole of government is consumed with Brexit at the moment, and with the threat of a snap election there might be a drawing-in of civil service resources as ministers work on other priorities.

Hi Sam

Thank you very much for your feedback on this.

We can allow the survey to run for a bit longer if you think that would help.

Could you please pass it round the Leicester stations that did not get a licence recently.

This would not be a poll in which suggestions that gain the most votes would ‘win’. Rather DCMS advises that they hold no position on the way forward and are canvassing for ideas - so it’s more a case that quality ideas are needed.

Certainly the feedback you have given us so far will be given to DCMS and to Ofcom.

There is a range of opinion that stretches from requiring incumbent licensees to reapply for the fourth term to extending licences indefinitely.

I will dig out more contact details for stations that have applied for community radio licences recently - but I’d appreciate you passing round the survey details: https://goo.gl/forms/VzUdsrg8QzlEIZgB3

Many thanks and all the best for now

Bill

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