Ofcom invites stations to test Small Scale DAB

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Digital Two applications published by Ofcom

The full details of the recent applications to run a second national commercial DAB multiplex are out, and here’s the info.

Both applications show all proposed DAB radio stations on the digital platform will be broadcast in mono at no more than 80kbits/sec. DAB+ services on Listen2Digital will however be in stereo, and both services plan to launch in 2016 based on Ofcom awarding the licence within the next three months.


Sound Digital


Sound Digital is a mixture of Arqiva (40%) Bauer (30%) and UTV (30%). The company wants to launch within 12 months of being awarded the licence, and launch all services on a single day with the exception of UTV which plans to launch four new radio stations over time.

Sound Digital has a board of three directors, consisting of a senior executive director from each of Sound Digital’s shareholder companies. The shareholders have agreed that the chairpersonship will rotate between the three directors. They are:

  • Steve Holebrook (Managing Director of Arqiva Terrestrial Broadcast)
  • Dee Ford (Group Managing Director Radio, Bauer Media)
  • Scott Taunton (Chief Operating Officer, UTV Media plc)

In addition, Grae Allan has been mentioned as Bauer’s alternate director for Dee Ford.

The joint venture agreement means Bauer and UTV could not agree to provide content for a competing bid – which is why there are no Bauer or UTV services proposed for Orion Media’s bid.

Sound Digital plans to co-site transmitters for D2 with Digital One and the BBC national networks to avoid adjacent channel interference to existing digital radio services, and use the same dual satellite distribution feeds that are used by the Digital One network.

Some of the services proposed are already available on Digital One, but Sound Digital says it will still broaden listener choice as the transfer of Planet Rock, Premier Christian Radio and Absolute Radio 80s to the new multiplex would support a further future extension in the choice of distinct national digital radio services available in the UK.

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Listen2Digital

Listen2Digital were the secret bid by Orion Media, partnering with Babcock Communications Ltd and other companies offering to bring even more choice to the digital radio scene.

It wants to provide competition in the market for access to DAB as a new entrant in multiplex ownership, ‘independent of the three companies that between them control both the existing national multiplex and over 80% of the local multiplexes in the UK’.

Partner Babcock International Group PLC will build a new network and together they will put in place the ‘lowest-cost rate card’ for service providers to allow new entrants into the market. The company has a commitment to launch the entire network in Q2 2016 with an estimated 81.5% coverage from a 42 site network.

“DAB needs a new approach and new thinking to reinvigorate its growth. It needs to be more than just a platform for the industry’s dominant players to roll out off-shoots of their established brands and formats,” Listen2Digital says in its application.

The structure of Listen2Digital is as follows:

Orion Media Holdings Ltd £450,000
Babcock Communications Ltd £350,000
Folder Media Ltd £50,000
Sabras Sound Ltd £50,000
Phil Riley £20,000
Mark Evans £20,000
David Lloyd £20,000
Gregory Watson £20,000
Matt Deegan £20,000

Total: £1,000,000

Phil Riley will be Executive Chairman of the company should it win the licence, and the consortium anticipates moving into healthy profitability from year 4 onwards, as the initial bank loan is paid off. It will have £1m worth of investment from ordinary shares, followed by £5m from loans and bank finance.

Marketing will be focus on promoting the services rather than the platform.

When Listen2Digital asked about sound quality v more choice, a majority (51%) opted for more choice, with just over a third (36%) preferring better sound quality.

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