The auction of licenses for commercial FM radio frequencies must yield a minimum of 73.7 million euros. This has been announced by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. In addition, the ministry has announced the conditions for the new channels.
After years of postponements, extensions and a lawsuit, the procedure for the forgiveness of nine commercial radio frequencies will start next month. Applications to participate in the auction may be submitted from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. The actual auction is mid-July.
Minister Adriaansens will then announce in August to whom the permits have been allocated. That is when the parties with their winning bid have transferred the money.
At the moment 100% NL, BNR, Qmusic, Radio 10, Radio 538, Radio Veronica, Sky Radio, Slam! and Sublime the nine frequencies, but that’s about to change. A party will soon be able to obtain a maximum of three licenses for transmitters. That used to be unlimited. For example, media company Talpa now has four commercial channels (Radio 538, Radio 10, Radio Veronica and Sky Radio). That would mean that one of those stations will soon disappear from the ether or that Talpa will have to dispose of one.
Fewer themed channels
Two of the nine licenses have specific requirements in terms of music genre or theme. For example, there must be a commercial channel that offers Dutch-language music (now 100% NL) and a channel with news and current affairs (now BNR).
At the previous auctions there were five specific themes, three of which have now expired: ‘non-contemporary music’ (Sublime), ‘currently popular’ (Slam!) and ‘popular non-contemporary’ (Radio Veronica). According to the ministry, two theme channels are sufficient “because new channels such as DAB+, internet radio and streaming services now provide a varied range to have a broad Dutch media landscape”.
For the ministry, a station with Dutch-language music is important because of its “cultural value for society” and “the production and distribution of home-grown music”. And a commercial news channel contributes to “development, opinion-forming and representation of society”, according to the ministry.
FM will continue until 2035
The new licenses are for a period of twelve years, until 2035. Analogue radio (FM) is linked to digital radio (DAB+). By releasing the frequencies for twelve years, the ministry wants to give the parties the space to recoup their investments. EZK also promises that FM will not be phased out before 2035 and will be completely replaced by DAB +.
“By auctioning this summer, we will soon have a future-proof radio market in which newcomers will also have a chance,” says the minister. “We consciously auction for a period of twelve years, because that offers certainty to parties who have one or more winning bids.”
Lawsuit for permits
The last time the nine permits were auctioned was in 2003, for a period of eight years. Due to extensions and the corona pandemic, a new auction was always postponed. Last year, the court in Rotterdam ruled that the national FM frequencies for commercial operators had to be redistributed.
KINK, a station without an FM frequency, had filed a lawsuit against the government after it decided last year to renew its current licenses. The licensed stations appealed against that decision to the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal. But he saw no reason to deviate from the ruling.
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