The U.K.'s commercial radio stations have called on independent regulator Ofcom to speed up the rate of change in the sector.

RadioCentre -- the body that represents 320 U.K. commercial radio stations -- today (July 4) gave its response to Ofcom's November 2006 "The Future of Radio" discussion document, at a press conference in central London.

Commercial radio in the U.K. is subject to substantial public policy intervention. Ofcom's report called for deregulation of radio formats and ownership, but only when digital listening figures reached a certain, as-yet-undefined point. But RadioCentre argues that, due to increased competition in the sector and the cost of investing in multiple platforms, the regulatory burden should be eased now.

"Radio is a small industry," said RadioCentre CEO Andrew Harrison at the press conference. "It's also changing rapidly, both in terms of audience listening habits and facing increased competition for advertising and listeners' time. Ofcom’s proposals need to be implemented more quickly and take a more radical approach."

The RadioCentre report, entitled "Shaping Commercial Radio's Future," also calls for the establishment of a cross-industry working group to guide radio's digital future. While the U.K. government has announced a television analogue signal switch-off date of 2012, no such date has yet been set for radio, despite the growing popularity of DAB digital broadcasting.

"It's not sustainable to simultaneously invest in analogue and digital without a road map for the future," said Harrison.

Elsewhere, the report proposes that the industry be allowed to self-regulate its approach to local content and calls for radio-specific rules on concentration of ownership to be removed.

The report also contains the results of "The Big Listen," an online poll of 10,000 commercial radio listeners that showed widespread support for the medium.