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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Future of Radio

I have submitted my humble response to the OFCOM Future of Radio consultation.
I am disappointed that the BBC is outside the scope of the radio review. The BBC has a market share in excess of 50% in the overall radio market and in some segments (eg Radio Plays and Documentaries) has a far higher market share. In my opinion, rather than technology or the state of the advertising market, the BBC is the biggest constraint on the development of a healthy commercial radio sector. In addition, the BBC exhibits true monopolist tactics such as cross-subsidisation and promotion amongst its various media channels which makes it even harder for the commercial sector to compete. I seriously believe that an investigation by the Competition Commission into the behaviour of BBC Radio is necessary.

I believe OFCOM should focus on releasing as much digital spectrum as quickly as possible onto the market. This will reduce the scarcity value of radio spectrum. OFCOM should also focus on removing the bureaucracy associated with issuing and monitoring its licenses. It should allow license holders to broadcast whatever content they so desire. Furthermore, it should allow free trading in licenses. In summary, I believe OFCOM should focus on removing any barriers to entry to new competition and addressing the issue of limited spectrum availability. The audiences will ultimately determine the success and value of license holders.

I firmly believe that with the advent of cheap editing technologies and distribution methods should as podcasting and internet streaming an explosion in content is about to occur. The market will determine the popularity of such content and whether it is worthy of broadcasting. It is extremely important that OFCOM does not get involved in the regulation of this nascent market and allows the proliferation of individual ideas to compete against the BBC juggernaut.

OFCOM have historically spent a lot of money regulating local radio stations. I do not believe this is important in the internet era: diversity of opinion and content is far more important than locality. The market will determine whether ScarboroughRadio or FreeMarketRadio or both will succeed as a broadcasting model or will be resigned to serving its audience via internet streaming or podcasting.

Finally and most importantly, I do not believe that OFCOM should renew any analogue radio licenses and should negotiate a date for complete turn-off of all FM and MW stations and transition them into the digital era. It is scandalous that we are still broadcasting with such inefficient technologies and wasting so much spectrum.
The consultation closes tomorrow so I would urge everybody to speak now of forever hold your peace.