The UK’s second national DAB radio multiplex network was officially switched on today by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.
The switch-on was performed the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, who was joined by Arqiva terrestrial broadcast managing director and Sound Digital chairman Steve Holebrook. It took place at an industry conference hosted by talkSPORT presenter Colin Murray.
Mr Whittingdale also launched a national retune campaign to urge listeners to rescan and retune their digital radios to receive the latest stations.
The new network from Sound Digital is a joint venture company formed by Arqiva, Bauer Media and Wireless Group. It will feature 18 digital stations, with 11 currently on-air and the remaining seven launching by the end of March.
Mr Whittingdale said the launch would be “significant” for the radio industry.
He added: “The launch of this new DAB network with 18 national stations is a tremendous step forward for digital radio. It means listeners around the UK have a greater choice of stations than ever before. All the public need to do is retune their digital radios so they can get the most out of the fantastic choice now available.”
A new station from Global – Heart Extra – was announced at the conference and launched this week on the Digital One DAB network. The BBC also confirmed the launch of BBC2 Radio Country, a four-day national digital radio pop-up station running from March 10-13 to coincide with the C2C Festival.
The Secretary of State welcomed the expansion of BBC national DAB to 360 sites, which will provide coverage to almost 97 per cent of the population.
The expansion of local DAB coverage, which has been backed by the Government and supported by the industry, will see coverage of local stations increase from 75 per cent to 91 per cent by the end of Q3 2016.
Arqiva’s Mr Holebrook said: “As well as rolling out the UK’s second national DAB digital radio multiplex, we have also been busy extending both the BBC’s network as well as local DAB coverage. Now is a great time to retune your DAB radio, or to go out and buy one, to ensure you have access to many new exciting DAB only stations as well as receiving familiar names in DAB for the first time as coverage is expanded.”
The combined DAB coverage expansions will bring more than 10 million people and 10,000 kilometres of roads into coverage by the end of the year. By the end of 2016, the DAB coverage criteria set by the Government will have been met.
The DCMS plans to review a decision about digital switchover when the share of digital listening, currently at 42 per cent, reaches 50 per cent.
Digital Radio UK chief executive Ford Ennals said: “This is a massive moment for digital radio with an explosion of station choice on the DAB platform. With improved coverage on local and national networks, and over 40 stations on national DAB, including the first DAB+ stations, there has never been a better time for listeners to tune into digital radio. We hope that everyone retunes their radios to take full advantage.”
Pictured top: Left to right – Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, Planet Rock Breakfast presenter Paul Anthony, Arqiva Terrestrial Broadcast MD and chairman of Sound Digital Steve Holebrook.