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  • Shine Team

Do you know the law for FM radio?

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

With drive-in cinemas becoming increasingly popular to allow safe screenings of films with Covid-19 restrictions in place many people are looking into in-car audio solutions.

To find out about Shine Cinemas solution jump to the bottom of the page.

In-car Radio

The first method that pops into most peoples head is transmitting audio via FM radio directly to car radios. This method has been used across Europe and America for years however is not very common in the UK due to licencing laws for FM radio.

In simple terms you are creating a small temporary 'radio station' on the FM frequency that can be picked up by anyone in the area using a radio (including car radios). This is a licenced activite by Ofcom which ensures there is no overlap or interference between broadcasts.

There is an exemption for transmitter devices with a output below a certain level designed for single user small radio devices however the range of these devices would not be suitable for drive-in cinemas.

Can I get a FM radio Licence?

Yes you can. But the process can be time consuming, cost money and there is no guarantee you will have a licence granted. You can apply for a temporary FM broadcast licence from ofcom. You will have to pay an application fee to submit your application and a separate fee for the licence itself which is based on the number of days you would like your licence for. Once you have submitted your application Ofcom will consider it and grant it if there is available bandwidth on the FM frequency within your area. This however is not always the case and if no bandwidth is available they may refuse your application. Licences are site specific for this reason. After your licence is granted you will need to consider the hardware required to broadcast your FM signal. Ofcom have a list of approved hardware which you will need to use. Although there are many FM transmitters for sale on ebay and amazon the majority of these will not be approved for use by Ofcom.

What happens if I transmit without a licence or the incorrect hardware? If Ofcom investigate you and find you in breech they can fine you into the £1000's All this being said it is possible to use FM radio as a audio solution however it is no our recommended method.


Unfortunately bluetooth is not a solution. The technology has a number of limitation including lag /delay causing lip sync issues and short range of only around 10 to 15 meters making it unsuitable for drive-in cinemas. Sorry

WIFI / Internet

Lots of promise but not there yet. Wifi and streaming via 4G / internet can suffer from delay and lag issues. The technology is also unstable and can be affected by a large number of devices trying to access a single wifi point or lots of devices in one area all sharing the same bandwidth. Almost



In-car Speaker System

So we have established you need a licence to broadcast via FM using a frequency car radios can tune into, but did you know there is a whole range of frequencies outside of this bandwidth which consumer radios can't pick up, and some are licence free! So our solution uses this 'Licence Free' frequency which is normally utilized for radio mics and similar products to transmit the audio to our very own receivers which are then placed in each car on the dashboard.

We pair this receiver with our very own mini speaker for each car allowing for in-car audio. Customers can also plug their own headphones or car speakers directly into the small receiver via their car 'Aux in port' if they wish providing a very flexible solution.

Other benefits include:

  • Based on FM radio for a stable and reliable signal

  • Long Range upto 200 meters

  • The signal can't be picked up without our receivers so there's no danger of a car gatecrashing your event.

  • Using a independent receiver and speaker without using the cars built-in radio means cars do not need to have their engines running reducing noise, pollution and potential flat car batteries.

Although our solution is great it's not perfect in the current covid-19 pandemic as it requires us to hand out equipment to each car. However with some planning and simple sanitizing between film screenings its simple to overcome this concern. If your looking to book a drive-in solution or outdoor cinema give us a call or e-mail today.

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