SSDAB and Community Radio Order

With the end of the Parliamentary session having happened, does anyone know if the SSDAB & Community Radio Order was passed at the last moment?

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Hi @Nigel

Thanks for your message.

On Monday the House of Commons Twitter account tweeted the day’s business:

Which linked to here - the business for the day:

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmagenda/ob190909.htm

The SSDAB legislation was not on there.

The draft Small-scale Radio Multiplex and Community Digital Radio Order 2019 was on the order of business for last week but it was not processed:

Search for “Radio” - there are more than 40 pieces of outstanding legislation that required formal approval.

And the position yesterday was that Parliament is now prorogued for five weeks. However, today’s news (11/09/19) is that some lawyers are saying that Parliament should now be recalled. We can only wait and see.

What we do know is that approval of the SSDAB legislation has been postponed for a while. Approval is a formality so it might be possible for this to be resolved when Parliament reconvenes in October.

Our understanding is that the SSDAB legislation, which is not a public bill, will be rolled over for when Parliament reconvenes. Only Government bills that started in the House of Commons can be carried over in this way.

The decision to try and carry over bills is a political judgement. A Government Minister must bring forward separate carry-over motions for each bill to be progressed. In practice, agreement is usually reached through the ‘usual channels’ (Whips from the main parties) before carry-over motions are tabled. The Commons must approve each carry-over motion by a simple majority. Bills can only be carried over once.

Carry-over motions expire after 12 months from the first reading of the bill. MPs must pass a further motion if they wish to continue a bill after this time has elapsed

The current difficulties are unlikely to affect Ofcom’s timetable in the short to medium term. Ofcom has plenty of work to do so any delay with the legislation will give them extra time to spend on other matters. Parliament was going to be suspended anyway for the Conference season - and the pro-Leave camp argue that the period was going to be extended for only a few extra days.

If there is any extra time available, Ofcom will be preparing for SSDAB by looking at their internal processes and procedures, drafting application forms, building databases, and other preparatory work.

The main concern is what happens to those licences which are up for renewal next year. It’s too early to be overly concerned just yet - we’ll have to see how things pan out in the next few days and weeks. In the final analysis however, without additional legislation, I believe that it is possible for Ofcom to arbitrarily extend any broadcast licence under existing provisions - including those of the SSDAB triallists which end around the end of March next year.

Thanks for the detailed explanation Bill.

My understanding, is that when a sessions ends before the Queen’s Speech, is that anything outstanding falls. It would mean the Order (which is not a Bill) would have to be introduced again, debated, amended, etc.

I suppose time will tell on this one, but as you say, a significant part of it not being in place, could affect older community stations being able to have licences extended.

Of course, Ofcom could use the time to offer licences to the 35 new applications which closed back in March. But I would say that, being one of the 35 :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Nigel.

If the Supreme Court finds against the Prime Minister next week then Parliament will have to be reconvened early and its prorogation would be annulled. Business would then resume.

The full judgment from the Scottish Court of Session will be released tomorrow (Friday) which might provide a clue as to the reasoning of the Court and what might happen next.

We might have a better idea tomorrow.

Certainly Ofcom advises that they are indeed continuing to process the 35 community radio licence applications.

As soon as we learn more, we’ll let you know.

All the best for now

Bill

This extension thing is ill informed nonsense. If it was not in the bill then the licences would have to be re advertised. There is an established procedure for this in law that is suitable and applicable to community licences and used for commercial licences.

Ofcom invite applications from interested parties in each area as it comes up. Applications are made. Ofcom is allowed to consider the track record of the incumbent and unless another well established group also applies or the incumbent has made a colossal mess then it’s a simple process to issue a new license, giving 15 years certainty.

The current proposal is that stations get just another 5 years. There is a strong suggestion that after 5 years then if SSDAB is available in an area then the FM won’t be readvertised, starting a digital switchover. This sounds like a bad deal to me.

Ofcom and dcms are both on record as saying they want to extend them all for 5v years rather than do a full readvertisement as they want to see what the landscape is like in 5 years and if a digital switchover would be appropriate.

I have a letter from a minster saying they are not planning to do any more FM adverts as the future is digital and that the current FM licences may well be left to expire naturally.

In my mind a full readvertisement which will give a guaranteed 15 years seems to be a very good option to me and will be far better for funding than 5 years with no certainty after.

I am very strongly opposed to the 4th term extension therefore.

To declare though, the station I am involved with has been after a license for years. A local station that is coming up to their 15 year point aren’t doing anything really in their original application. All the group’s they referred to and who supported their application dropped them years ago and we now work with them. This group even admits for their target age group they all listen online and when their FM transmitter died last year it was off for 8 weeks before anyone even noticed. Conversely we have thousands of people asking us to move from AM to FM but Ofcom says there is no spectrum locally.

To readvertise licences after 15 years seems to be very fair and reasonable for all parties. A blind renewal is no good for anyone at all apart from dcms and Ofcom.