Local Radio Franchises

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 9th February 2012.

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Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport 10:30 am, 9th February 2012

What assessment he has made of the potential for local radio franchises and licensing; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We have made no assessment of the potential for radio franchises because radio licensing is a matter for Ofcom, which awards licences via a “beauty parade” mechanism, assessing individual applicants’ ability to deliver services for the local area.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport

I thank the Minister for that reply. News content aside—[ Interruption ] should there not be more flexibility in licences and franchises to allow commercial radio to respond to market conditions?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I found it slightly difficult to hear the question, but I think my hon. Friend was asking about flexibility in content regulation. That will be an important matter for the Green Paper as we look at communications regulation in the round.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Labour, Sefton Central

Follow that, Mr Speaker!

BBC Radio Merseyside is the most popular radio station on Merseyside and is a lifeline for many elderly and disabled people. Rather than setting up local radio franchises, would the Government not do better to support much-loved existing local BBC radio such as Radio Merseyside?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I heard the hon. Gentleman loud and clear, and I am delighted that the chairman of the BBC Trust has made it clear that the BBC will review its original plans for BBC local radio, which is very good news.