Re-advertising a second national commercial multiplex could be one option to help the growth of DAB, it has been suggested.
Speaking to Radio Today, Digital Radio UK CEO Ford Ennals said people are beginning to talk about Digital 2, and it “might come back on the table”.
Digital One, the only national commercial multiplex, can accommodate new stations but only if other services reduce their bandwidth. Three years ago Channel 4 withdrew from launching a second multiplex after winning a licence in July 2007. Extra space on an additional multiplex would enable existing operators provide a better quality sound and allow additional national stations to launch.
Ford Ennals said: “Channel 4 was a disappointment, and that wasn’t anything to do with Digital Radio, it was Channel 4 getting it wrong. They won the licence but didn’t really have the plan or the finance to go through with it.”
“Digital One is full now – there’s a waiting list – and people are beginning to talk about Digital 2 so that might even come back on the table”
A spokesman for Ofcom said they were not at present planning to advertise a second national commercial radio multiplex. He added: “We continue to monitor levels of interest from potential applicants, and as government and industry move towards an agreed way forward for digital radio, we will keep such a licence advertisement under review.”
This week at The Radio Festival, it was announced that the top 20 digital stations in the UK had seen digital listening surge by 18% in the last year, according RAJAR in Q3 2011. There are now 14 radio stations with more than one million digital listeners, including four digital-only stations.
Ennals said on-stage: “Almost 50% of listeners now listen to digital radio every week and that we have seen digital listening grow overall by 14% year on year, and by 18% for the top 20. Listeners love the 25 plus digital-only stations, but also love listening to their favourite FM stations on digital radio.”
Digital listening growth is expected to accelerate as a major communications campaign is launched, DAB coverage is extended and availability in-car increases.
Ennals confirmed that a £10m+ 2-year industry digital radio communications campaign will launch on TV, radio, press and online in the first week of December.
Tim Davie, the BBC’s Director of Audio and Music, announced that a major new digital radio transmitter serving London was being switched on this week. This is the third of three new major transmitters serving the London area, that together will boost the digital signal for 9 million Londoners and bring 250,000 more people into DAB coverage.
He said: “I’m very pleased to see that the combined efforts of the radio industry are resulting in a clear transition of listeners into digital radio. The support of car manufacturers over the last few years has been vital in taking DAB forward and the progress made in the last 12 months is encouraging. With the industry working together to improve coverage and offer more exclusive content, I hope we can build on this progress to see a step change in digital radio growth.”
Paul Everitt, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, has confirmed that now 18% of all new cars are fitted with digital radio as standard, a significant increase from the 5% at the same time last year, thanks to the extension of DAB digital radio into top-selling cars such as the Ford Focus, the Mini and the VW Beetle. He said: “Significant progress has been made in developing the content and coverage of digital radio, driving consumer demand in the new car market. The massive increase we’ve seen this year puts us well on the way towards delivering our commitment to fit all new cars with digital radio by the end of 2013. In the last 12 months, at least 14 car brands have announced plans to fit digital radio as standard.”