Digital Economy Act
Summary of Radio Clauses
The Digital Economy Act entered Statute on 9th April
Like all legislation, the Act is incredibly complex, and like all radio legislation it is pretty impenetrable, not least because it does not simply set out a new framework, but instead amends three previous pieces of legislation to achieve its objectives (the 1990, 1996 and 2003 Acts).
Clause 30 – Digital Switchover
This clause sets the framework for digital radio switchover. It is an ‘empowering’ clause in that it allows the Secretary of State to set a date, but does not require one to be set, or
indicate when the date might be. The details of the clause are as follows:
- The Secretary of State may set a date for digital switchover. There may be different dates for different services. This is good news: the power rests with the Secretary of State, not Ofcom, and there can be different dates for different services.
- Having set a date, the date may be withdrawn. An alternative date may then be set.
- When deciding what date to set, the SofS must have regard to a report submitted by Ofcom or the BBC. That report must consider current and future: provision of digital services, coverage and digital set ownership. It must also involve consultation with all sectors of the industry as well as wider stakeholders including groups representing listeners.
- Once the SofS has set a date, Ofcom must shorten the analogue licence of any service which will be part of the switchover process so that the licence end date is the same as the switchover date. At least two years notice must be given (unless the licence holder consents).
Clause 35 – Local radio multiplex services: frequency and licensed area
This clause is important as it gives Ofcom important flexibility to facilitate any changes that the industry might want to make to the local multiplex layer.
- Ofcom may change the frequency of a local multiplex licence and may reduce/extend its licensed area.
- However, it must first have received an application from the licence holder. The licence holder must have submitted a technical plan.
- Ofcom must consult before granting its approval, and may only consent to this if it does not unacceptably narrow the range of programmes available.
Clause 36 – Renewal of radio multiplex licences
This clause allows a further rollover for multiplex licences. It does so by setting a framework to allow a new piece of (secondary) legislation to be brought forward.
- The new piece of legislation may grant a rollover for a multiplex licence. It may also set out how long the roll-over is for, and other licence conditions.
- The powers to bring forward this piece of secondary legislation expire at the end of 2015.
Follow the progress of the Bill at services.parliament.uk/digitaleconomy
If the Digital Economy goes through successfully and becomes law, what would this mean for MuxCo/DAB in general?
Could it mean further delays in the process of getting transmitters on air, could it potentially shorten the process, or would it not really change anything?
If it becomes law, it should help speed the process up for some MuxCo launches and also should provide some more encouragement for stations to join the DAB platform.