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DAB Digital Radio expansion

After extensive consultation, Ofcom today published its final statement on the further development of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio.

Ofcom will allocate three blocks of VHF Band III spectrum to fill the gaps in local multiplex coverage, so providing the opportunity to every part of the UK to receive local DAB Digital Radio services (including both commercial and BBC local and nations radio services), and one block to a further national commercial multiplex to provide additional choice for as many listeners as possible.

The plans, announced as part of Ofcom?s Radio Review published in October, were subject to a public consultation which closed on 16 November.

Ofcom?s decision is subject to the outcome of the Regional Radio Conference on international spectrum usage in May-June 2006 and the vacating of the spectrum by existing users.

Licensing – next steps
Ofcom is today also publishing a consultation to seek views on the licensing process for this additional local and national DAB capacity, including how it proposes to apply the various statutory criteria relating to the awarding of the new licences under the Broadcasting Act 1996.

The criteria include:

Extent of the proposed coverage area
Timetable for coverage roll-out and commencement of services
Ability to establish and maintain the proposed service
Appeal to a variety of tastes and interests (national licences) and cater for local tastes and interests (local licences)
Broadening the range of local digital sound programme services (local licences)
Local demand or support (local licences)
Promotion of digital take up (national licences)
Fair and effective competition
National DAB multiplex licence
In addition, in awarding an additional national commercial multiplex licence under the Broadcasting Act, Ofcom must consider whether a potential licensee would promote the development of non-satellite digital radio in the UK. Ofcom therefore considers that it is important that the national services provided by the additional national commercial multiplex will help to sustain and grow the DAB platform.

Ofcom Chief Executive Stephen Carter said: “Additional capacity allows more radio services to join television and telecoms in the transition to digital.”

He added: “For listeners, this new capacity will mean more choice, more new services and greater coverage.”

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