RADIO 2 BLOCKED FROM LAUNCHING ONLINE SPIN-OFF THAT IS ‘ABSOLUTE RIP-OFF’

The BBC has been blocked from launching an online Radio 2 spin-off which commercial rivals had branded “an absolute rip-off” of their stations.

Ofcom is understood to have told the corporation that the plans could have a significant adverse impact on the competition.

The BBC had hoped to launch the spin-off on BBC Sounds in the next few weeks, as streaming services are not subject to the same regulatory processes as DAB radio.

Ofcom has blocked that option, and the plan will now have to be subject to a public interest test, a process expected to take several months.

The spin-off would focus on music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – encroaching on the territory of stations such as Boom Radio, Greatest Hits, and Absolute.

Radio 2 has been criticised for abandoning music from those decades, and listeners have been deserting the station for commercial competitors.

Ofcom’s decision has been welcomed by rivals in the commercial sector. Phil Riley, co-founder of Boom Radio, previously described the BBC’s plans as an “absolute rip-off” of his own venture, branding it as “outrageous”.

Reacting to the decision, Mr Riley said: “We are delighted that Ofcom has directed the BBC to launch a full public interest test into the first stage of their proposed launch of a Radio 2 spin-off service which, like Boom Radio, is planning to play 60s and 70s music with familiar big radio names.

“The future of Boom Radio would be placed at serious risk by the arrival of a Radio 2 extension. It says the new station would offer ‘best-loved presenters playing oldies from the 50s, 60 and 70s’ but that is exactly what Boom has done since it was created to address Radio 2’s disenfranchised audience.

“As a small, independent business, there is little slack to withstand this threat. It could be the end of Boom. So while there is still a long way to go, we’re pleased to have succeeded in the first round of arguments.”

He added: “Our view has always been that this service, even if only delivered on BBC Sounds, represents unfair competition to our fledgling station, with huge risks to our future.

“It deserves the detailed scrutiny that only a full Public Interest Test and subsequent Ofcom BBC competition assessment can bring.

“The BBC has provided scant evidence of public value from this back-to-back music station. It is not what the BBC should be doing.”

One per cent budget

Boom Radio operates with only one per cent of Radio 2’s budget but since 2021 has built an audience of 600,000 listeners, and employs ex-BBC presenters including Simon Bates and Judi Spiers.

It is understood that planned Radio 1 and Radio 3 spin-offs have been given the go -ahead to stream on BBC Sounds, ahead of a public interest test into proposed DAB versions.

Ofcom is expected to make an official announcement after the State Opening of Parliament next week.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We will publish our decision in the coming days on whether the BBC’s plans require a public interest test.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We are surprised to hear commercial radio’s comments on what they understand to be Ofcom’s decision before this has been published. 

“We are respectfully following the right regulatory processes in line with the Charter, Agreement and Ofcom regulation. 

“This includes running a detailed public interest test for our music extensions and having an ongoing dialogue with the music industry, Ofcom and our radio industry colleagues.

“Our plans are distinctive and measured, offering more choice and value to licence fee payers and doing so in a way only the BBC can.”

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2024-07-09T16:23:26Z dg43tfdfdgfd