Ed Vaizey MP has officially switched on the new local DAB expansion programme at a car conference in London.
The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy was giving a talk at SMMTConnected, a major car conference hosted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders at the QEII Centre today.
It marked the official start of the major programme of work to build out coverage of local DAB stations includes 182 new transmitters which will extend coverage of local DAB stations to more than 90% of the population, and add over 4,100 miles of roads into coverage.
At the conference BBC Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb interviewed the Minister, who stated that this programme of work showed the confidence that the broadcasters and Government had in DAB as a vital part of digital radio’s future.
Ed Vaizey said: “Digital radio is the future of radio in the UK and I am delighted that Government has been able to play its part in this major expansion which will help accelerate the transition to digital radio, in the car and at home.”
Over 50 local areas will get new transmitters and the work will complete towards the end of 2016. A total of 182 new local transmitters are being built by Arqiva plus modifications at a further 49 sites, making local stations available on DAB to an additional eight million listeners and drivers across the UK for the first time. This buildout is being jointly funded by Government, the BBC and the commercial multiplex operators. When this programme of work is complete, the switchover coverage criteria will have been met.
This first switch-on means that 115,000 listeners and drivers in the Coventry area will be able to receive five local radio stations; BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, Capital, Free Radio Coventry, Free 80s, Heart West Midlands, and Panjab Radio for the first time on DAB digital radio. The new transmitters at Ilmington, Shilton and Daventry give local digital radio stations on DAB to over 115,000 new listeners in the area, and add over 120km of roads into DAB coverage. An additional transmitter at Hartshill Quarry will be switched on towards the end of the year, improving coverage even further.
The BBC is building 162 new digital radio transmitters to improve national DAB coverage for its national network stations. This work is already halfway through, and will improve coverage of BBC national network stations from 94% to 97% by the end of this year. This BBC national buildout includes a new DAB transmitter in Coventry city centre, which was launched in March 2015.
Paul Eaton, Director of Digital Radio of Arqiva said: “We are committed to extending digital coverage through local transmitters across the UK and this switch-on, which gives 8 million listeners access to our stations on DAB, is another important step for our industry.”
Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK added: “We welcome the UK expansion of digital radio – it’s great news for listeners as it means that millions more listeners and thousands more miles of roads will be able to receive DAB loud and clear.”
Photo: Mike Hawes, SMMT, Ed Vaizey MP and Paul Eaton, Arqiva