Ofcom today published two consultations which it says could "pave the way for changes to the local media landscape".
The first is a consultation on recommendations to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the media ownership rules. These include recommendations to remove the local radio station ownership rules and to liberalise the rules around ownership of different media within a local area.
The second consultation focuses on reforming the rules around commercial radio to ensure it can continue to deliver local content.
Ofcom says: "Current trends are for newspapers to merge with each other and for radio groups to do the same. But in future, cross media ownership in local areas could be one further way for the media sector to respond to these challenges."
It adds: "In our second statutory Media Ownership Rules Review, we are consulting on recommendations to make changes to the current rules that govern ownership of television, radio and newspapers."
The two principal recommendations for consultation are:
Removing the rules around radio service ownership that apply to local analogue and digital audio (DAB) services. This means that all local commercial radio stations could be owned by one operator in a local area, alongside the BBC local radio services.
Liberalising the local cross media ownership rules so that the only restriction is on ownership of all three of: local newspapers (with a 50 per cent or more share of the local market); a local radio station; and the regional Channel 3 licence.
Ofcom is also consulting on recommending removing the national multiplex rules and leaving the remaining media ownership rules unchanged.
The Media Ownership Rules Review consultation can be found here http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/morr/ It will be for Government and Parliament to decide whether to make changes to the rules.
Separately, Ofcom has published its proposals for the future of localness regulation following the Government’s recent Digital Britain report. Ofcom’s regulation and licensing regime is defined by legislation approved by Parliament.
Ofcom says: "We are consulting now so that any changes put in place by Parliament would be implemented rapidly if proposed legislation is passed."
The consultation can be found here: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/radio/
Ofcom will consult on the proposals set out in the Media Ownership Rules proposals until 17 September 2009. It will then present final recommendations to the Secretary of State by 13 November 2009.
The radio consultation closes on 23 October 2009. Any implementation would be subject to Parliament passing the relevant legislation.
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