HC Deb 26 March 1998 vol 309 cc223-4W
Mr. Geraint Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if the holders of the three national commercial radio licences who were offered guaranteed capacity on digital radio have accepted that offer; and if he will make a statement on the regulatory framework for digital radio broadcasting. [36830]

Mr. Chris Smith

Classic FM plc, Talk Radio UK Ltd. and Virgin Radio Ltd. each informed the Radio Authority by 1 March of their intention to take up the guaranteed capacity on the sole digital national commercial radio multiplex offered to them by the Government.

The radio industry have voiced concerns to me that the current restriction to 10 per cent. of digital capacity for licensed additional services does not permit sufficient advertising on data services to support the investment in and development of digital radio. Having consulted the Radio Authority, I have decided to bring forward, shortly, an order under section 54(3) of the Broadcasting Act 1996 to raise to 20 per cent. the limit of capacity on digital multiplexes that can be used for digital additional services. However, the spectrum which has been allocated to digital radio should be used principally for communicating to the general public. The Government do not want to see a significant amount of the capacity that has been assigned for digital radio additional services used for services addressed to closed-user groups, when such services can be and are delivered by other means. I have therefore asked the Radio Authority to monitor the digital additional services that are broadcast and to report to me on the second anniversary of the start of digital radio services on the use made of additional service capacity. I shall consider in the light of the Authority's report whether the limit needs to be revised.

I welcome the suggestion by the Commercial Radio Companies Association that the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre regulate the content of advertisements carried on digital additional services. I have asked the Radio Authority, when reporting to me on additional services, to include an assessment on the effectiveness of the RACC' s regulation.