HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 c8
7. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

What representations he has received on the regulation of local commercial radio broadcasting. [91345]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson)

The Government frequently receive representations on the regulation of local commercial radio broadcasting from industry organisations, radio companies and other interested parties. The Government recently published the results of our consultation on the convergence Green Paper, in which we addressed the wide-ranging responses about the licensing and regulation of radio.

Mr. Blizzard

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does she share my concern that local commercial radio has become less local? I am informed that GWR owns 33 local radio stations and HBA owns 27. It often seems that the same music is played on all the stations at the same time, from a national play list. Some good local musicians and the Musicians Union are frustrated that they cannot get their music played on local radio. Can my hon. Friend suggest what can be done to make local radio more local?

Janet Anderson

My hon. Friend is right. It is certainly true that the programming of the larger groups such as GWR, Capital and Emap is based on central playlists, but there will be station variations, particularly when certain music is more popular in one area than in another.

The answer to my hon. Friend's question, essentially, is that it is for the radio stations to specify their intended formats when they apply for a licence. That could include a commitment to promote local music. It is for the Radio Authority to award a licence to the applicant that it considers offers the format that will best meet local needs. I know that that continues to be a priority for the authority, and it is precisely because of public concerns such as this that it is nervous of any further relaxation of the ownership rules.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Will the hon. Lady pay tribute to Tony Stoller, the chief executive of the Radio Authority, and his deputy David Vick, for the regulation of radio? Over the past five years, radio has expanded more in this country than during any other period. Does the hon. Lady accept, however, that companies such as GWR are now interested in obtaining digital licences? What assurance can she give that there will be no added levy on either radio or television digital licences?

Janet Anderson

I am happy to join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the two people who look after the Radio Authority. As for his question about speculation in the press, it was a good try, but I will not pre-empt the outcome of the review panel's findings.

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