A special project to boost digital radio take-up and increase digital listening towards 50% in Northern Ireland was announced today at the Belfast Media Festival. The project, which is being coordinated by Digital Radio UK, will see Northern Ireland’s radio broadcasters, retailers and manufacturers collaborating on activity communicating the benefits of digital radio and how to listen at home and in the car.
Broadcasters leading the project are Bauer Media, whose stations include Northern Ireland’s Downtown Radio, Cool FM and digital-only station Downtown Country, as well as UK-wide stations such as Absolute Radio and Magic; and Wireless which broadcasts U105 across Northern Ireland on DAB and UK-wide stations including talkSPORT and Virgin Radio.
The campaign activity, which kicks off on Thursday 22 November, will run across Wireless and Bauer’s Northern Ireland stations and includes aligned on air commercial ads; listener and online competitions to win digital radios; on air mentions and editorial explaining digital radio benefits and how to listen at home and in-car; as well as online and social media activity.
Participating retailers include Halfords and independent retailers throughout Northern Ireland who will be offering discounts on selected DAB digital radios. Point of sale materials will be available and staff training to explain the benefits of digital radio to customers. Leading digital radio manufacturers Ruark and VQ are supporting the project with the provision of product for listener competitions and give-aways.
Digital radio listening in Northern Ireland is making strong progress and growing faster than the rest of the UK, having increased to 39.4% in Q3 2018 from 30.2% in Q3 2016, with half of all adults in Northern Ireland now having access to a DAB digital radio at home. The availability of DAB has been transformed and coverage expanded, and there are now 54 stations, including local stations Downtown Country and U105, on DAB in Northern Ireland.
Despite this rapid growth, digital listening in Northern Ireland still lags behind the national UK-wide average of 52.4%, and it is hoped this programme of coordinated communications will help accelerate digital listening to over 50% within two years.
Announcing the activity during the Radio: Revolution? Evolution? panel session, Digital Radio UK’s Communications Director, Yvette Dore, said: “We are seeing more and more listeners in Northern Ireland switch on to the benefits of digital radio, but we know that there are some who are still unsure about digital radio. We’re delighted to announce this targeted activity in collaboration with Bauer Media and Wireless, and leading retailers and manufacturers, to help ensure listeners know there are 54 great stations available on digital radio in Northern Ireland and how to receive them.”
Mark Mahaffy, Regional Managing Director of Bauer Radio, Northern Ireland, said: “Digital listening in Northern Ireland is enjoying terrific growth and Bauer Media is proud and excited to be collaborating with our industry colleagues on this initiative to bring our portfolio of strong radio brands Downtown, Downtown Country and Cool FM to more listeners in Northern Ireland.”
Peter McVerry, Station Director, U105, said: “We’ve had a terrific response from listeners since launching U105 on DAB in July 2017, which brought the station to listeners from all across Northern Ireland. We’re delighted to be reinforcing our commitment to digital, bringing U105’s great music, news and sport to even more listeners, and working together with fellow broadcasters to spread the word on how to find us on digital radio.”
Four million more listeners across the UK can now receive 19 further radio stations on DAB digital radio for the first time following the launch of new transmitters covering parts of East Anglia, the South West, Kent, South Wales and North East Scotland.
The new transmitters have expanded the coverage of Sound Digital, the national DAB commercial network, which broadcasts some of the UK’s most popular and iconic music, speech and sport stations including Virgin Radio, KISSTORY, Absolute 80s, Planet Rock, Jazz FM, talkRADIO and talkSPORT2.
In total 19 new transmitters have been added to the network, meaning that four million more listeners now have access to the Sound Digital stations, increasing coverage to 83% of the UK from 77%.
Listeners in these areas will be able to listen to the brand new Chris Evans’s Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio in the New Year; listen to Tony Hadley’s 80s Party every Saturday on Absolute 80s; spend afternoons with Matthew Wright on talkRADIO; enjoy Nights With Alice Cooper on Planet Rock, Sunday afternoons with Ruthie Henshall on Mellow Magic and weekends with Jamie Laing on heat Radio; follow England’s cricket tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies on talkSPORT 2; hear the very best jazz, soul and blues on JazzFM; and listen to the UK’s newest national station, JACK Radio, which launched only this week.
talkSPORT presenter Darren Gough commented on the changes from Sri Lanka, saying: “From buttering your toast in the morning to driving home at night and every moment in between, this DAB extension means even more cricket fans will have more ways to tune into all of England's major overseas tours until 2020, exclusively on talkSPORT 2.”
Mellow Magic’s Ruthie Henshall, said: “I love spending my Sunday mornings playing music from the musicals, and I hope with this brilliant expansion that many more of you can join me!”
heat Radio’s Jamie Laing, said: “Presenting on heat Radio each week is some of the most fun I’ve had, and I’m so excited that the station will be available in more places than ever before. Can you ever have too much Britney and Busted? Absolutely not.”
To receive the 19 new stations listeners in the areas where the new transmitters have launched should retune their DAB set by pressing the auto tune or auto scan button or go into the radio’s menu and press auto tune. Listeners can check all their available digital stations by using the postcode checker at www.getdigitalradio.com [See Notes to Editors for further details].
Sound Digital is operated by a consortium of Bauer Media and Wireless, two of the UK’s leading commercial radio broadcasters, and Arqiva, the leading transmission provider. The network was launched in March 2016, transforming the choice of radio stations available to listeners in the UK through the biggest ever expansion of national radio stations. The network now attracts over 5 million listeners across its stations, which includes KISSTORY, the UK’s most popular digital-only commercial station.
The investment in 19 new transmitters is a response to the success and popularity of the network’s stations and listener demand for its line-up of services, which is in full: Absolute 80s, Fun Kids, Forces Radio BFBS, heat Radio, Jazz FM, JACK Radio, KISSTORY, Magic Chilled, Mellow Magic, Panjab Radio, Planet Rock, Premier Christian Radio, Premier Praise, Sunrise Radio, talkRADIO, talkSPORT2, UCB 2, Union Jack and Virgin Radio.
Steve Holebrook, Managing Director, Terrestrial Broadcast, Arqiva, said: “The popularity of the Sound Digital Network has grown significantly since its launch two years ago and it’s always been our target to bring its selection of high-quality stations to more people in the UK. We are delighted to now be bringing the network’s diverse range of content to almost 4 million new listeners.”
Dee Ford, Group Managing Director of Radio (UK Division), Bauer Media, said: “Bauer continues to lead the field in digital radio listening because we understand the music passions and interests of our listeners. We are proud to be the home of the UK’s most listened to commercial digital radio station – KISSTORY, broadcasting on the Sound Digital mux. The expansion of Sound Digital coverage brings Bauer’s great brands into the lives of an even wider audience.”
Scott Taunton, Chief Executive of Wireless, said: "With our recent high profile talent signings including Chris Evans' sensational return to Virgin Radio, talkRADIO's new chat show legends Jeremy Kyle and Matthew Wright, and our new talkSPORT 2 presenter line up for our exclusive coverage of England cricket's major tours, it's been an exciting time for Wireless. This multiplex provides us with the opportunity to further amplify our first class coverage and content to an even wider audience."
Ford Ennals CEO, Digital Radio UK, said: “This is great news for radio and for listeners with some of the UK’s favourite commercial digital stations now being available for nearly 4 million listeners for the first time. The majority of radio listening in the UK is now digital thanks to the unique range of national stations available on DAB. The expansion of Sound Digital’s DAB coverage and its great line-up of stations mean that 83% of the UK population can now receive 44 outstanding national commercial and BBC radio stations on DAB.”
Notes to Editors
Digital radio – key stats