Ofcom Proposes - More Choice for Listeners to Digital Radio

Hundreds of new local digital radio stations could start broadcasting in the UK from next year, under proposals outlined by Ofcom.

With over 40% of the UK’s radio listening now taking place on the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) platform, these proposals mark a major step towards expanding local DAB coverage, giving listeners an even wider choice of new digital radio stations.

Small-scale DAB is cutting edge technology, pioneered in the UK by an Ofcom engineer. It provides local commercial, community and specialist music stations with a low-cost route to hitting the digital airwaves.

By using freely available software and computer technology to transmit digital radio services, small-scale DAB enables stations to broadcast to a relatively small geographic area.

To make the best use of valuable spectrum and give existing and new local stations the opportunity to broadcast digitally, Ofcom are allocating airwaves previously occupied by business radio and people can continue to use their existing radio including DAB+ sets to listen to the new stations.

Graham Plumb, Ofcom’s Director of Spectrum Broadcasting said: “People increasingly prefer digital radio, and by enabling smaller stations to join this digital revolution, we can broaden the choice for local listeners up and down the country.”

Following successful trials, and the Government's response last autumn to a consultation that ran in 2018  which the HBA argued hospital radio stations who didn't already hold an analogue community radio licence, or are unable to apply for one because one isn't available in their area, were excluded. The government agreed and has allowed not-for-profit entities to hold a C-DSP licence and has included this in The Small-Scale Radio Multiplex and Community Digital Radio Order 2019 which was laid before Parliament in June.

HBA will be responding to this consultation which runs until Friday 4th October and they intend to start advertising licences early next year. The full proposal can be found on the Ofcom website.