Countdown begins to Radio’s Digital Future

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy will tell a conference of over 200 broadcasters, manufacturers, retailers and industry stakeholders in London today that the future of UK radio is digital and the countdown to three major landmarks has started.

The conference entitled Radio’s Digital Countdown, and sponsored by Ruark Audio, marks the start of the countdown to major landmarks for digital radio in content, coverage and cars in the next year with the launch of the second national commercial digital radio multiplex, Sound Digital, in the next 6 months; the completion of the planned expansion of national and local DAB coverage in the next 12 months; and the expected completion of the provision of digital radio in over 90% of new cars, also within 12 months.

Speaking at the event Ed Vaizey will say that he is confident that the move to digital will be accelerated by the launch of new digital stations, the expansion of DAB coverage towards FM levels, and the introduction of DAB radios into new cars – all of which have seen considerable progress.

Welcoming the unprecedented strength and diversity of content offered on digital radio,  the Minister will highlight the launch of Sound Digital in early 2016, the second national commercial digital radio multiplex, which he will describe as game-changing.

Delegates at the conference will hear more on Sound Digital from UTV Media, Bauer Media and Arqiva, the consortium behind the new national multiplex, set to deliver the UK’s biggest ever expansion in national radio stations with at least 15 national digital radio services commencing.  At that time, there will be over 40 stations available across the UK on DAB covering varied musical genres, news, sport and business, including new national spoken word radio stations to compete with the BBC.

Mr Vaizey will further announce that nearly three quarters (74.1%) of all new cars sold this September had DAB digital radios fitted as standard compared with 57% last September. In Q3 2015, according to CAP/SMMT, a total of 530,000 cars were fitted with DAB as standard.

The Minister will also confirm good progress on the Government, BBC and commercial radio’s plans to build a further 182 local DAB transmitters to meet the Government coverage criteria of matching local FM equivalence and announce the completion of the 30th new local DAB transmitter site in South Wales last week.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said: “There’s no doubt that the future of radio is digital. More than 30 million of us are tuning in every week, with digital listening hours increasing every year. Today’s conference has highlighted the great progress that’s been made across the 3 Cs of digital radio – content, coverage and cars – offering listeners more choice than ever before.”

Dee Ford, Group MD, Radio, Bauer Media, said: “Our latest RAJAR results have demonstrated that Bauer Media’s significant digital investment has delivered fantastic results across our brands with nine out of the top ten all-digital commercial stations being Bauer owned. The latest figures show that 55% of our total radio listening took place via a digital device compared to the industry average of 42%.  We look forward to further delighting and growing our digital audiences in early 2016 with the national launches on D2 of Mellow Magic, heat and Kisstory – and the extension of our much loved brands Absolute 80s and Planet Rock.”

Calum Macaulay, Managing Director, talkSPORT, said: “We’re very proud to be spearheading the biggest expansion in national radio choice in a generation, and looking forward to launching our three new stations, talkSPORT 2, talkRADIO and Virgin Radio. We believe they’ll make digital radio an even more appetising prospect for listeners through increasing choice.”

Mark Friend, Controller, Radio & Music Multiplatform, BBC, said: “The BBC is at the forefront of digital innovation and we continue to develop new and exciting ways to engage listeners with our content. With innovations including the personalisation of services and ‘pop up’ digital services, such as Radio 2 Country and BBC Music Jazz, which launches next week, our strategy is to combine the best of broadcast digital radio with the best of online to create a truly compelling and unique offering for listeners.”

Will Harding, Chief Strategy Officer, Global, said:  “As the commercial radio leader, Global is playing a key leadership role in the growth of digital, with five stations on national digital radio, including Classic FM, Capital Xtra, Smooth Extra, LBC and Radio X.  We launched Radio X two months ago with an overwhelming response.  In addition, our contribution to the build out of the local DAB layer, our Heart, Capital and Smooth brands being present across the UK on local DAB and our market leading work on service following all show Global’s investment in and commitment to DAB.”

Paul Eaton, Director of Digital Radio, Arqiva, said: “We are delighted to be playing our part in the delivery of these significant landmarks for digital radio both by expanding the coverage of the existing local and national networks and rolling out the infrastructure that will carry the second commercial DAB network. This will bring improved coverage and digital choice to millions of listeners across the UK.”

Ford Ennals, CEO Digital Radio UK, said: “Digital Radio has come of age and next year will have the digital radio content proposition that listeners have been waiting for. Already more homes have DAB than Freeview or Sky and from next early 2016 they will be able to enjoy over 40 digital stations with a full range of established radio brands, brand extensions and great new station brands.”

In a further announcement at today’s event, manufacturer Pure and Sound Digital will confirm details of a strategic partnership which will support the launch of Pure’s highly anticipated in-car digital radio adapter in spring 2016.

Paul Smith, General Manager, Pure, said: “Digital radio in new cars is becoming the norm but consumers have been slow to convert their cars to digital. We believe that this is set to change with the launch of Pure’s new in-car digital radio adapter and look forward to working closely with our partners over the coming months to make this launch the most transformative ever for the in-car digital radio aftermarket.”