Four million people in Kent, East Anglia and the South-West will be able to tune into Virgin Radio and Planet Rock on DAB digital for the first time in a few weeks when 19 new transmitters are switched on.
The announcement was made at radio industry conference Drive to Digital 2018: The Future of Radio on Tuesday by the Sound Digital consortium, owned by Bauer Media, Wireless Group and communications infrastructure provider Arqiva, which sponsored the event.
This, it said, will increase coverage of the UK’s second commercial DAB network, which includes Virgin Radio, Planet Rock and Absolute 80s, to 83 per cent of the population from 77 per cent – mainly in Kent, East Anglia and South-West England.
“The Sound Digital proposition has established itself strongly in the two years since its launch, and it was always our hope that we would be able to expand its reach to some of those parts of the UK that were not initially in coverage,” said Laurie Patten, director of strategy, ventures, product and marketing at Arqiva.
“We are delighted to now be bringing the network’s diverse range of content to almost four million new listeners,” he added.
The conference was attended by 300 senior executives representing radio and car manufacturers, broadcasters and retailers and was addressed by Margot James, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (pictured) by video message.
She underlined Government commitment to digital switchover following Rajar figures that showed two quarters of digital listening above the 50 per cent threshold and said she “she hoped to be in a position shortly” to announce government plans to work toward that goal.
The MP added: “Radio’s transition to digital has helped the medium stay robust and relevant in a digital age, and I’m passionate about ensuring the industry continues to grow and succeed.
“Now is the time for a strong commitment to a collective vision for the future from the many organisations involved in getting digital radio this far.”
Ford Ennals, chief executive Digital Radio UK, said: “The completion of UK radio’s transition to digital will bring significant benefits for listeners, broadcasters and industry and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Government and stakeholders to continue to accelerate digital progress.”
Tom Wrathmell, head of radio and education strategy at the BBC, said: “The move towards digital has allowed radio to thrive and it’s crucial that we continue to innovate to ensure that radio remains accessible and robust. We are committed to a digital future for radio, and in the immediate term we continue to support hybrid delivery of DAB and FM running alongside new IP innovations, such as BBC Sounds, which brings together live and on-demand radio, music and podcasts into a single, personalised app.”
The launch of specialist digital radio stations, particularly those offering specific music choices, have been embraced by UK listeners over the past few years and radio station owners used the conference to highlight investments and innovations in that area.
The conference also highlighted new initiatives and innovations in the areas of connected cars, smart and voice-controlled audio, and podcasts.