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OfCom allows Radio 1 24/7 dance stream launch to go ahead, but will look at market position of BBC Sounds app

By | Published on Friday 25 September 2020


UK media regulator OfCom has said that it will allow the new 24/7 dance music channel within the BBC Sounds app to launch as planned. However, it is going to start looking at BBC Sounds as a whole, in order to ensure that the broadcaster isn’t using the app to launch services that go beyond its public service remit and which unfairly compete with commercial media.

OfCom was responding to Tory MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Commercial Radio Andy Carter, who called for the regulator to investigate after the BBC announced its new Radio 1 Dance service, which aggregates existing specialist shows and mixes from its archives.

The MP said that he didn’t see how the new dance channel served any public service remit and that he was concerned the BBC was using the little scrutinised BBC Sounds app to increasingly compete head-on with commercial services.

Carter stated: “It’s imperative for the future of the BBC that it provides high quality, distinctive content that warrants its significant licence fee income. I am concerned about the serious lack of transparency and scrutiny of the BBC Sounds platform. New services like Radio 1 Dance do not appear to meet the important public value tests that the BBC must observe. I hope OfCom will conduct a thorough review of BBC Sounds as a matter of urgency”.

OfCom, however, having looked into the Radio 1 Dance stream ahead of its launch next month, says that further scrutiny and a ‘public interest test’ on the part of the BBC is not necessary, because the new channel repurposes existing content and therefore isn’t a “material” change to existing services.

In a response to Carter’s call, OfCom says that it believes that “the impact of the new stream on the market is likely to be small – particularly as it will be online only and contain no new or exclusive content”.

However, it added, “there have been a number of incremental changes to BBC Sounds, and some stakeholders in the commercial radio sector have concerns about its development. OfCom therefore intends to consider the market position of BBC Sounds through a public process, seeking evidence from stakeholders and the BBC”.

Noting that BBC Sounds is now “a vital part of the BBC’s audio proposition”, it will seek input from “interested or potentially affected parties”, as well as trying to get to grips with the Beeb’s future plans for the app. The review is expected to be completed by the end of the year.