Radio laws


Due to the important nature of radio, laws have been put in place to protect its use.

Radio is important as it is used in both business and leisure industries and can reach a wide audience. It is used by emergency services, in the shipping and aviation industries, and to make certain types of telephone calls. Radio is also used by dispatch bases for taxis, lorry drivers, and couriers, and therefore must be properly regulated.

Regulation of radio law

You may normally take radio for granted, but if you decide to broadcast your own radio station on or offline, you must comply with all current regulations.

The unauthorised use of radio equipment or radio wave bands can disrupt the legitimate use of radio, and there are laws that prevent and punish these occurrences. Some criminal offences relating to the unauthorised use of radio can lead to £5,000 fines and/or two years' imprisonment.

The Communications Act 2003 created the Office of Communication (Ofcom) to regulate the UK’s communication industries, including radio.

The Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 grants Ofcom the power to regulate the use and installation of radio equipment in the UK. In order to broadcast on the radio, a valid licence must be held. A licence will contain various terms and provisions that the broadcaster must comply with. These can include:

  • The use of a certain frequency
  • Not causing any undue interference
  • Keeping the broadcast within a specified geographical area
  • Ensuring equipment meets specified requirements
  • Using only with a certain power and certain level of emission

Ofcom award new broadcasting licences and can vary, or revoke, existing ones. Ofcom also regulate:

  • Radio content
  • Advertising
  • Rechnical requirements

Using a solicitor

Radio broadcasters must be aware of other areas of law that affect broadcasting on the radio. Laws of copyright and defamation, especially slander, are particularly relevant. A specialist media solicitor will have experience and professional knowledge in all areas of law that affect broadcasting on the radio. Laws in these areas are complicated and it is recommended that a media solicitor be consulted.

It is important to ensure that you are fully aware of the radio law as it relates to the type of radio broadcasting you are carrying out, or intend to carry out. Failure to comply with Ofcom regulations will mean your radio station is outside of the law and could face prosecution.

If you are taken to court over the radio broadcasts you are making, the services of a solicitor with experience of the media industries will be invaluable. They can argue your case, and if your case comes to court, also represent you.

The law extends outside of radio to include all forms of broadcasting. Click this link for more general information on broadcasting laws.

Do you have an issue concerning radio law? Radio law is a very niche area of law, but Contact Law works with a number of media law specialists who can answer any questions you may have on running a radio station or creating some broadcasting material. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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