FM radio program licensing started in Finland

FM radio program licensing started in Finland

Ficora (the Finnish Telecom Regulatory Authority) published invitation to apply for FM radio program licences on 17 May. All the existing commercial FM licences will expire on 31 December 2019 and thus there is a chance for restructuring of the market setting. Ficora has identified a few new frequency blocks and there are also some minor frequency changes within the existing blocks but otherwise the award is very much about re-awarding the existing licences. The available set of licences can be summarized as follows:

  • 7 national licences with population coverage ranging from 78% to 99% and number of transmitter stations ranging from 26 to 46; all of these are currently operational licences with only minor frequency changes at some transmitter stations
  • 11 subnational licences with population coverage ranging from 42% to 72%; 6 of these are new, mostly formed by regrouping existing local or regional frequency blocks
  • 57 local and regional licences with population coverage of less than 40%, most including only one or few transmitter stations; 10 of these are new

As part of the Finnish government’s objective to streamline licensing procedures, the award is run by Ficora instead of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. However, this applies only as long as there is no excess demand. In case demand exceeds supply, the award will be controlled by the ministry. As before, the ministry relies on a beauty contest as an award mechanism. What is new, is that program content to be broadcast is of lower importance than earlier. Instead, the ministry emphasizes e.g. viability of the business plan as a key criterion. In evaluation of the business plans the ministry is expected to value e.g. existing audiences as a sign of viability. This is likely to give an edge to the existing players over any potential newcomers.

The award applies to commercial FM broadcasting only. Yleisradio as the public broadcaster can continue to hold the frequencies it needs. Currently Yleisradio broadcasts four national and four regional/local channels and uses up to 38 high-power transmitter stations in its network. The majority of the commercial channels rely on less extensive network grids with low-power transmitters. In terms of network structure the only commercial channel comparable to Yleisradio is Bauer Media’s Nova. Bauer Media is the biggest commercial radio broadcaster in Finland with a total of 7 channels. Other big ones are Sanoma and NRJ Finland.

The application period ends on 31 July 2018 and the licences are valid for 10 years.