Ofcom Annual Plan

I notice within the Ofcom annual Plan:-

Analogue Community Radio:
We will undertake the necessary spectrum planning to maximise access for community radio and support the fourth round of licensing for analogue community radio

Round complete
Q2 2019/20

Not quite sure what this means. Does this mean they plan to advertise more analogue community radio licences?

If so, I personally would like to see a return of the option to take up an AM license should spectrum be unavailable for FM.

Ofcom removed this option from the license application form without consultation. They then refused us a license due to insufficient spectrum. Lastly they would not accept our request to have an AM license instead as it was not on the application form.

A high power AM community radio license would be perfect to achieve our social gain objective and combined with SSDAB would be a reasonable compromise for not having a FM license as 99.999999% of radios out there have at least AM -or- DAB.

Furthermore having AM as a fallback combined with DAB would mean that people complaining about AM quality could always go and buy a DAB radio.

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Ofcom has advised that invitations to apply for the next round of community radio licensing, with regard to those expressions of interest received in November-December 2017, will go out before the end of 2018, @SamHunt. The deadline will be three months later with a few weeks extra added to account for the holiday period.

What Ofcom is possibly saying here is that they expect to complete processing all of those applications by Q2 2020. It seems like a long way off but I believe they received almost 100 EoIs - however, not all of them will result in applications.

Ofcom will not be able to start processing those applications until Q2 2019 as the application window will be open until end of March/beginning of April 2019

Ofcom is also concurrently processing ~130 requests for coverage improvements and extension requests (Radio broadcast update, November 2018).

There will be the legislation for SSDAB passed by government in April/May 2019 leading to Ofcom’s consultation which might be published in Autumn 2019 and that could run for three months taking things up to Q1 2020.

It therefore seems higly unlikely that Ofcom has plans to advertise more analogue licences. In fact, Ofcom has advised the following (Notes, 22/11/18):

Ofcom received 90 expressions of interest before the December 2017 deadline and around 20 more after the deadline had passed. Ofcom used the priorities that were set out in their statement of 19 June and have decided not to invite applications for every area for
which we received an expression of interest for a variety of reasons.

Given the volume of expressions of interest we received, Ofcom also decided they could not consider any that had been received after the deadline had passed. The key priorities we used to consider the applications were:

a) areas unserved by existing community radio services, and areas for which we
have invited applications but not received any in our current round of licensing (see
our ‘apply for a radio broadcasting licence’ page (under the ‘apply for a community
radio licence’ drop-down menu) for lists of applications received during 2017);

b) areas not covered under a) for which we believe there is a reasonable likelihood of
suitable FM frequencies being available;

c) any other areas.

On 3rd September 2018, Ofcom gave ​a list of the areas​ from where they will invite
applications for licences. These areas will be invited before the end of 2018. The deadline
will be three months later with a few weeks extra added to account for the holiday period.

In the statement on ​community radio future licensing and technical policy​ (28 April 2017)
Ofcom explained that they are planning their licensing work taking into account new
legislation that is currently being drafted for the introduction of small-scale DAB.

Ofcom expects that the licensing work for multiplexes and community digital programme
services at locations across the UK will commence during 2019, and will take some time to complete.

Ofcom is also currently considering applications from existing community radio services for coverage improvements and extensions.

Therefore Ofcom is not in a position to plan more new FM licensing at this time, but, subject to new legislation, there will be opportunities for new services on small-scale DAB in the future.

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Hmm. Is this perhaps the start of a digital switchover by stopping issuing new analog licences?

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We would hope not @SamHunt - I believe that FM has years of life ahead of it.

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