Commercial digital radio multiplex licences renewed until 2035

The government has announced it is giving Ofcom the power to renew two national DAB commercial radio multiplex licences - Digital One Ltd Multiplex and Sound Digital Ltd Multiplex, due to expire in 2023 and 2028 respectively - until December 2035, enabling listeners to enjoy the UK’s national commercial broadcasters’ content through free-to-air digital radio for the next decade.

The move will mean stability for listeners and broadcasters, as audiences across the UK will enjoy uninterrupted access to the huge range of radio content available from the country’s national commercial broadcasters through their digital devices on a free-to-air basis.  

Popular stations on the Digital One network include Absolute Radio, Magic, LBC, Capital and Smooth, and on the Sound Digital network include Planet Rock, Virgin Radio, Jazz FM and TalkRADIO.

Media Minister, Julia Lopez said: “Radio’s distinctive and much-loved format means it continues to be at the heart of people’s lives. Today we are confirming plans to extend radio multiplex licences until 2035 so our hugely popular stations can continue to reach audiences through digital radio networks and we can give broadcasters the certainty they need to invest in their future services.”

Paul Donovan, Arqiva CEO said: "This announcement by the government is a positive outcome for consumers across the UK and industry – helping to provide a stable platform for commercial radio in the UK for the next decade and beyond. The decision will also underpin the certainty needed to drive long-term investment in DAB technology and programming to ensure the future of radio remains bright.

"After what has been a challenging period through Covid-19, this show of definitive support from the government and various stakeholders, symbolises the hugely encouraging long-term future of this essential national asset."

Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK said: “We welcome the certainty and stability provided by the DCMS decision to enable the extension of the two national commercial DAB networks until the end of 2035. These networks and the 45 national commercial stations they broadcast are hugely important to listeners and have helped transform radio listening in the UK through continued innovation and accelerating the transition to digital listening which now accounts for nearly 66% of all listening.” 

Almost 9 in 10 adults in the UK listen to radio every week and more people are choosing to listen to their favourite stations on digital devices. The most recent listening data (RAJAR Q3 2021) showed that 66% of all listening is now digital with DAB (digital broadcast) radio now the most popular way to listen to radio in the UK accounting for 43% of all listening.

A digital radio multiplex is a service which groups a number of different radio stations onto one frequency. It differs from analogue (FM/AM) broadcasting where a single signal is broadcast. 

Multiplexes allow radio broadcasters to use the spectrum - the airwaves over which all wireless communications devices communicate - to  be allocated more efficiently and give listeners more choice on digital radio.  

Renewing the two multiplex licences via a Legislative Reform Order will also provide long-term continuity for various national commercial stations to broadcast digitally.

The full list of the radio services carried on the multiplexes being renewed:

D1 Multiplex licence expiring in 2023:
Absolute Radio
Capital XTRA
Capital XTRA Reloaded
Capital DANCE
Classic FM
GB News Radio
Heart UK
Heart Dance
Heart 70s 
Heart 80s
Heart 90s
LBC News 
Radio X
Smooth UK
Smooth Chill

SDL/D2 multiplex licence expiring in 2028:
Absolute 80s
Absolute 90s
Boom Radio UK
Fun Kids
Jazz FM
Mellow Magic
Planet Rock
Premier Christian Radio
Premier Praise
Scala Radio
Sunrise Radio
talkSPORT 2
Times Radio
Union JACK
Union JACK Dance
Union JACK Rock
Virgin Radio
Virgin Chilled
Virgin Anthems