Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, celebrated a new age of creativity and competition in the UK radio market at a special Digital Radio Reception held today at Global’s Leicester Square Headquarters in London.
The Minister highlighted that in the last year nearly 100 new commercial radio stations have launched on national and local DAB digital radio offering an unprecedented level of choice for listeners and competition for the radio sector. At the reception Mr Vaizey met a number of broadcasters involved with launching new national and local digital stations.
There are now over 40 national broadcast stations available in the UK on digital radio which compares with the historic number of eight national stations on FM. There are 11 BBC network digital stations and 32 national commercial radio digital stations as a result of the launch of Sound Digital, the second national commercial DAB network, in March 2016.
The new national commercial radio stations include music genre stations such as Jazz FM and Chris Country; faith-based stations Premier Christian Praise, Awesome and UCB2; speech-based stations such as Share Radio and talkRADIO; sports station talkSPORT 2; and the return of Virgin Radio.
The Minister highlighted the success of the Ofcom small-scale DAB trials, a Government-backed initiative, which has enabled nearly 90 local commercial and community stations to be launched in the last 12 months across 10 trial areas – London, Glasgow, Manchester, Portsmouth, Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Norwich, Birmingham and Aldershot. This expansion has been made possible by utilising DAB airwaves in local markets to support the launch of ultra-local radio stations, encouraging a surge of creativity across commercial and community radio with a wave of fresh new voices and innovative formats from stations such as Resonance, Rinse FM, Reprezent, Totally Radio, Max and Somer Valley.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said: “The ongoing roll out of DAB digital radio is bringing listeners around the UK greater access, better coverage and an even wider variety of content. The past 12 months has seen great progress in new programming and stations, providing consumers with an unprecedented level of choice and keeping radio fresh and relevant in a digital age.”
Alongside the expansion of digital radio content, national and local DAB coverage has been transformed, with BBC national DAB now providing coverage to 97% of the population and coverage of local stations expanding from 75% to 91% of the population by the end of 2016 as a result of an industry and Government–backed programme of work. Digital listening has increased to 44% of all listening and is projected to account for the majority of radio listening in the next 12 -18 months.
Additionally, the Minister announced that 85% of new cars now come with digital radio as standard, according to data for Q2 2016 from industry analysts CAP and The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. This is compared to 70% in Q2 2015 or a year on year growth of 22.6% in units sold. In the last 12 months 2.1 million cars have been sold with digital radio fitted as standard.
Ford Ennals, CEO Digital Radio UK, said: “This is a landmark year for digital radio with an unprecedented number of new stations launching, the build out of national and local DAB coverage, and fitting of most new cars with DAB as standard. The expansion of digital radio is great news for listeners as it brings a wealth of station choice at both a national and a local level.”