72/99 10 May 1999


The Radio Authority announced today (10 May) that it has decided, after considering the proposals submitted for the local digital multiplex service licence for the Birmingham area, to award the licence to the sole applicant:

CE DIGITAL LTD. - Capital Radio plc, 30 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LA and Emap Radio Ltd., The Network Building, 97 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 9HF (contact: David Mansfield, Capital Radio, 0171 766 6288; or Tim Schoonmaker, Emap Radio, 0171 504 6010).

This is the first local digital multiplex licence to be awarded by the Authority. The licence, for the city of Birmingham and surrounding area, is designed potentially to deliver digital radio programming and data services to an area with an adult (aged 15+) population of 1,850,000, broadly corresponding to the coverage of existing Birmingham-based local radio stations.

CE Digital is owned on a 50:50 basis by Capital Radio plc and Emap Radio Ltd., and is proposing to broadcast a total of seven programme services, each provided initially on a round-the-clock basis:

Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR)

BRMB (programme provider: Capital Radio plc)


Capital Gold (programme provider: Capital Radio plc)

Modern Rock

Xfm (programme provider: Capital Radio plc)

Soft and Melodic

Magic (programme provider: Emap Radio Ltd.)



programme provider to be confirmed

programme provider to be confirmed

In addition to these commercial services, the BBC local radio station in this area, Radio WM,will be broadcast using the digital capacity reserved for it.

CE Digital proposes to commence its service in May 2000, initially using two transmission sites, at Lichfield and Turner's Hill, which it estimates will provide outdoor coverage of some 79% of the adult population of the Birmingham 'primary protected area' (PPA). It proposes to extend coverage subsequently by the addition of transmissions from Bromsgrove and Bearley, increasing outdoor coverage to an estimated 92% of the PPA population.

The licence will run initially for a period of twelve years from the commencement of broadcasting. The annual licence fee payable will be 850.

The Authority will be publishing its assessment of CE Digital’s application shortly.



1. The services will be transmitted on the VHF band III frequency block 11C (centre-frequency 220.352 MHz).

2. The application for the licence was considered according to factors specified in section 51 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, which are: the extent of coverage proposed, within the permitted maximum; the timetable by which this will be achieved; the ability of the applicant to establish the proposed service and maintain it throughout the licence period; the extent to which the proposed programme services will cater for the tastes and interests of listeners in the area; the broadening of local digital radio choice; local support for the applicant's proposals; and whether the applicant has been fair in contracting with the prospective providers of programme and data services on the multiplex.

3. Digital radio is a new transmission system which provides the listener with bundles (called multiplexes) of audio services to new portable and vehicle receivers, and personal computers, with unprecedentedly clear reception. Being digital, it can also broadcast data services which may or may not be related to the radio programmes; e.g. traffic information, electronic publishing, and internet-type information.

4. The Authority has already awarded a national digital radio multiplex licence, to Digital One Ltd., whose services will also be available in the Birmingham area.

5. The Radio Authority is responsible for licensing and regulating Independent Radio in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. It plans frequencies, awards licences, regulates programming and advertising, and plays an active role in the discussion and formulation of policies which affect the Independent Radio industry and its listeners.