Radio industry and Government commit to spending £21m on local DAB

Commercial radio groups, including Bauer Media, UTV Media and Global Radio, along with the BBC and the Government, have committed to invest at least £21m in local DAB infrastructure, with a decision on final digital switchover date promised in 2013.

Local DAB: radio industry and the Government commit to £21m investment
Local DAB: radio industry and the Government commit to £21m investment

After more than a year of negotiations, a non-legally binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed by a wide range of stakeholders and multiplex owners, including the BBC, Ofcom and Folder Media's MuxCo.

Although there had been speculation that parties such as Global Radio and UTV Media might refuse to sign the MoU, both companies have now agreed to the terms.

Through the MoU, the industry and Government have agreed in principle to pay up to £21m to fund the build-out of local DAB to FM "equivalences" over the next five years, and have also committed to consider further funding if necessary.

Following the signing of the MoU, five new local multiplexes will launch (in Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester, Northamptonshire, north-east Wales and west Cheshire, and Oxfordshire). A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said these would bring new radio services to 1.25 million listeners.

Under the previous government, the DCMS was working towards a 2015 date for the majority of FM radio stations to switch over to DAB, but the current administration has failed to make a firm commitment in favour of switchover.

A spokesman for the DCMS said the MoU announced today (2 July), confirmed the Government's commitment to make a decision on radio switchover in 2013.

The signing of the MoU is the beginning of the first of a three-phase process. The Government will now ask Ofcom to establish the Joint Planning for Radio Group to produce plans outlining the infrastructure work needed to achieve FM equivalence.

If the Government agrees to the switchover and the parties agree a legally binding funding agreement, the process will move into phase two, to increase local DAB coverage to around 90% of that provided by FM.

According to figures from transmission operator Arqiva, 215 local and regional DAB transmitters broadcast across 46 local and regional multiplexes. It is expected that 150 additional transmitters will be needed to expand local DAB's reach to 90% of the UK.

Once the 90% criteria has been reached, the culture secretary, currently Jeremy Hunt, will be able to nominate a date or dates for radio switchover and enter phase three, which will build out local DAB coverage as wide as FM.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: "This is a positive and significant step forward for the future of digital radio in the UK.

"As more and more listeners make the switch to digital, it's vital that we keep on increasing the areas able to receive a digital signal. Government, the BBC and the commercial operators are working together to ensure this happens."

The row over who would fund the rollout of local DAB first emerged when commercial radio trade body Radio Centre refused to attend a meeting in November 2010 after the BBC licence-fee settlement did not include provision for local DAB.

Today, the DCMS has also published a methodology report detailing how it worked out the cost benefit analysis of radio switchover and has asked for comment on the proposals set out in the report.

The following organisations have signed the MoU:
Arqiva Limited
Switch Digital (London) Limited
Switch Digital (Scotland) Limited
UTV-Bauer Digital Limited
UTV-Bauer Digital (B&H) Limited
C.E. Digital Limited (jointly owned by Bauer Media and Global Radio)
Bauer Digital Radio Limited
UTV Media Limited (GB)
MuxCo North Yorkshire Limited
MuxCo North East Wales and West Cheshire Limited
MuxCo Wales Limited
MuxCo Lincolnshire Limited
MuxCo Gloucestershire Limited
MuxCo South Midlands Limited
MuxCo Surrey and North Sussex Limited
MuxCo Somerset Limited
Now Digital Limited
Now Digital (Southern) Limited
Now Digital (East Midlands) Limited
Now Digital (Oxford) Limited
South West Digital Radio Limited
The Office of the Adjudicator

Follow Maisie McCabe on Twitter @MaisieMcCabe

Have your say...

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Media Week Jobs
Search for more media jobs


Lost in translation: when brand taglines don't travel

Lost in translation: when brand taglines don't travel

These might be some of the most memorable brand taglines in English but when they cross oceans, they mean something entirely different. We searched the depths of the internet to find the best, or worst.

Traditional TV viewers predicted to drop as mobile fuels rise in online video

Traditional TV viewers predicted to drop as mobile fuels rise in online video

Linear TV viewing figures are set to drop worldwide for the first time next year, with online video consumption set to rise by 23.3 per cent in 2015, according to a report by ZenithOptimedia.

The 7 deadly sins of brand management - and how to avoid them

The 7 deadly sins of brand management - and how to avoid them

Some of the most valuable assets a firm has are the brands it has developed. Brands create identification, differentiation and value for customers and shareholders alike. By influencing customer choice, creating a loyal and passionate following as well as commanding a premium for their products and services, strong brands can be key to great business performance.


Get news by email