The BCI have once again expressed their concern at a proposal contained in the government-commissioned Ox Report which recommends the setting up of an appeals body for radio licensing decisions. In a detailed document containing their response to the Report, the Commission say that they consider the idea of an appeals body neither workable nor appropriate. They feel that an appeals system would effectively second-guess their deliberations and, given that there are a number of subjective elements in determining applicants, consistency in decision-making would become difficult. Furthermore, a danger would exist that every licence decision would be referred to the Appeals Board thereby potentially undermining and questioning the necessity for the BCI Board in the first place.
In response to other issues contained in the Ox Report, the BCI also maintain that the current licence application process has not acted as a barrier to entry for lower-level players. Citing their recent decision to refund most of the application fee to unsuccessful bidders, the Commission feels that an auction process would be more likely to lead to exclusion. “Auctions may favour those with the deepest pockets but may not take account of other important considerations such as issues of concentration, programming diversity, etc,” the report says.
On the issue of automatic renewal of licences, the BCI is not in favour of such a concept and questions whether it would be in the interests of plurality and diversity. The Commission feels that automatic renewal would clearly favour the licensee, however a re-advertisement process allows the Board to re-evaluate and build on existing commitments. The BCI feels that this is in the public interest.
The idea of a penalty-points system for licence breaches is one that is supported by the BCI, although they do feel that the present system has been successful. The Commission also stand by their programming content regulation in relation to the likes of news and Irish music output, believing these to have been to the benefit of the sector and to listeners. However they accept that it may be appropriate to review their effectiveness as more services come on stream.