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Ofcom Fines Bauer for Abandoning AM

The £25,000 fine was required under the Broadcasting Act, according to the regulator

British broadcasting regulator Ofcom fined Bauer Media £25,000 for unilaterally ending Absolute Media’s medium-wave broadcasts across the United Kingdom. Bauer Media ended Absolute Radio’s AM service in January 2023.

Ofcom revoked the license a few weeks later on February 13, as was required under the Broadcasting Act. Absolute Radio’s medium-wave license covered was last renewed for a ten-year period in May 2021.

In shuttering the AM service, Bauer Media pointed to the environmental and fiscal costs of maintaining a network very few people used.

The Broadcasting Act also requires license holders to pay a financial penalty of up to the greater of £250,000 or 7% of qualifying revenue. In reviewing the case and prior decision, Ofcom decided to levy a fine of just £25,000.

Bauer had no comment on the fine; however, in its filings with Ofcom requesting a de minimimus financial penality, the company repeated its original rationale for switching off the AM broadcasts, including declining listenership, transmission costs and energy demands connected with AM broadcasting, and the national availability of Absolute Radio programming via DAB and streaming.

Also noted was the assessment of the U.K. government’s 2021 Digital Radio and Audio Review, which noted that “AM listening is likely to fall to commercially unsustainable levels in around 2025.” The review also recommended that national AM service providers, including the BBC and Bauer, “develop a plan for the migration from AM services to take place at some point in the mid 2020s.”

In explaining its rationale for the level of the fine, Ofcom considered declining AM listenership, the BBC’s moves to switch off some of its AM transmitters, and its own April 2023 decision to allow talkSPORT to reduce its AM coverage. It also noted that the regulator had received no complaints from the public about Absolute’s cessation of medium-wave broadcasting.

[Read more global radio news from Radio World.]