Ofcom to advertise small-scale DAB in early 2020

Ofcom is asking for opinions on how best to license small-scale DAB allowing potentially hundreds of new radio stations to start broadcasting.

The Government is planning to give Ofcom the power to advertise for new multiplexes, under a modified version of the Broadcasting Act 1996.

The move will enable a significantly wider range of commercial and community radio stations to broadcast on the UK’s DAB digital radio platform.

Over 700 individual expressions of interest were submitted to run either a small-scale multiplex or a service on a multiplex recently.

A number of eligibility and ownership restrictions apply to small scale radio multiplex licences, including a body corporate which owns more than 20% of small-scale radio multiplex licences, a body which holds a national licence, or an individual.

The Order will also provide for the issuing of Community Digital Sound Programme (‘C-DSP’) licences, a new type of licence designed for community radio services broadcasting on DAB. The consultation sets out Ofcom’s proposed spectrum planning and licensing process for small-scale radio multiplex licences and a proposed licensing process for C-DSP licences.

Ofcom says: “We propose that the coverage area of a small-scale radio multiplex service is defined by the area where its transmitter(s) is/are predicted to provide a field strength of at least 63 dBµV/m, which corresponds to a level sufficient for useable indoor reception.

“This coverage area will also constitute the licensed area for the small-scale radio multiplex service. The coverage/licensed area will not include the areas in which a small-scale radio.”

Ofcom wants to hear from anyone with views on the best approach to developing a coverage area plan for small-scale radio multiplex services, how to advertise small-scale radio multiplex and C-DSP licences, and how it will assess applications.

The deadline for consultation responses is Friday 4 October 2019 and a statement setting out the final conclusions is expected to be published early in 2020, when Ofcom intends to start advertising licences.

The 10 technical trials of small-scale DAB in various locations across the UK continue during the process.

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