Response to RNLI Marine VHF e-petition

by David Proudfoot

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to protect the RNLI from paying licence fees for using Maritime radio frequencies.”

Details of Petition:

“As reported in the Sunday Telegraph on the 28th September 2008, Ofcom wants to bring “market forces” into the maritime and aviation communications. The RNLI will have to pay £250,000 a year, and “smaller search and rescue charities fear they may have to close”. This proposal must be rejected wholeheartedly.”

Government Response

Following last year’s consultation, in August 2009 Ofcom published further proposals for spectrum pricing in the maritime sector. Those relevant to the RNLI and other safety-of-life charities were:

  • Radio channels used by search and rescue organisations (including the RNLI) in the course of maritime emergencies are managed by HM Coastguard. These are shared channels and we will not be asking any individual rescue organisations to pay fees.
  • In addition, we are proposing to make available, free of charge, a new channel (possibly two) to be shared by search and rescue organisations for routine, non emergency, communications. We have invited rescue organisations to say whether this would be helpful to them.
  • Finally, where any charity, whose sole or main objective is the safety of human life in an emergency, requires a radio channel for its exclusive use, we are proposing that fees should continue to be discounted by 50%. Larger organisations which operate from multiple sites will also benefit from new “area defined licences” which permit an unlimited number of transmitters in the licensed area; these will often be much cheaper than today’s licences.

Full details of the consultation, which is set to close on 11 December 2009, are available on the Ofcom website ( On completion of this consultation, Ofcom will publish a concluding statement.

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