More digital radio stations on their way to UK listeners

27 March 2015

  • Sound Digital wins the second national digital radio multiplex licence

Ofcom today announced the UK’s new national digital radio multiplex will be run by Sound Digital, a consortium of Arqiva, Bauer and UTV Media GB.

Digital radio listeners will benefit from a choice of new national Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio stations, expected to launch in March next year.

Sound Digital’s line-up will include:

  • Virgin Radio - rock and pop music
  • talkRADIO - news and current affairs
  • talkSPORT 2 - live sport and sports talk
  • talkBUSINESS - business and finance programmes
  • Sunrise Radio - Asian music and speech programmes
  • UCB Inspirational - Christian music
  • Premier Christian Radio - Christian music and speech
  • Jazz FM - jazz music
  • British Muslim Radio - Asian music and speech, with elements of Islamic content
  • Absolute 80s - 80s music
  • Magic Mellow - relaxing and melodic music
  • Planet Rock - classic rock music
  • Heat Radio - pop music, celebrity gossip and entertainment
  • Kisstory - ‘old skool’ dance tunes and anthems

Some of these 14 stations are currently broadcasting on the UK’s existing national, commercial DAB multiplex, operated by Digital One1. This is now at full capacity as the number of national, commercial digital stations has risen from four to 14 since 2009. As existing services move on to the new, national digital radio multiplex, capacity will become available on Digital One.

Ofcom invited applications to run the new multiplex, a discrete chunk of the airwaves, in July 2014. Ofcom also received an application from Listen2Digital, a joint application from Babcock’s Media Services business and Orion Media, a commercial radio group.

Ofcom’s assessment

Ofcom assessed each application against specified criteria. These were the extent of the proposed coverage area; the timetable for coverage roll-out and launch of services; how the service would be established and maintained; and appeal to a variety of tastes and interests.

The criteria also included proposals to promote or assist the take-up of digital radio equipment, and whether the applicants ensured fair and effective competition when putting together their proposed line-up.

Ofcom concluded Sound Digital would best promote the development of digital sound broadcasting.

Ofcom published non-confidential versions of both applicants’ proposals and invited comments from listeners and the industry in January 2015. The comments received were also considered as part of the licence award.

Sound Digital will now begin upgrading existing transmitter sites to reach around 75% of households with the new DAB multiplex. Sound Digital will be required to begin broadcasting the new national DAB radio stations by the middle of next year.

Digital radio in the UK

Almost half of UK adults (48.5%) say they now own a DAB digital radio set and 36.3% of all radio listening is on a digital radio.

As the Digital One DAB multiplex is now full, this led to the need for more capacity. Therefore, Ofcom advertised the second national, commercial multiplex in July 2014.

The BBC’s digital radio stations, including 1Xtra, 6 Music, Radio 4 Extra and Asian Network, are broadcast on a DAB multiplex owned and operated by the BBC.

Supporting local digital radio

As well as increasing the capacity for national digital radio, Ofcom is supporting the Local DAB Expansion plan, which will bring local DAB radio services from commercial broadcasters and the BBC to even more UK homes.

Ofcom has published predicted coverage maps showing what local DAB listeners in each area could expect to receive, both indoors and in-car, when the Local DAB Expansion Plan is completed in the second half of 2016.

The coverage maps are the result of detailed technical planning work, led by Ofcom over the past two years to inform the planned expansion.

Ofcom is also planning to trial a new technology that could provide small radio stations across the UK with an affordable way to broadcast on DAB digital radio. The new approach, known as ‘small scale DAB’, is cheaper than current systems because it uses software freely available from and is best suited for broadcasting to a small geographic area, ideal for community and local radio stations.



1. The DAB stations currently broadcast on Digital One are: Absolute Radio; Absolute Radio 80s; BFBS Radio; Classic FM; LBC; Magic; Planet Rock; Premier Christian Radio; Smooth Extra; Capital Xtra; Kiss UK; Talksport; TeamRock and UCB UK.

2. The licence award was made under the Broadcasting Act 1996, which requires Ofcom to consider the extent to which the award of the licence to each applicant would promote the development of digital sound broadcasting in the UK.

3. About Sound Digital Limited

Sound Digital Limited
1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, PE1 2RF
Contact: Jimmy Buckland.  Tel: 020 7959 7814.  Email:

The shareholders of Sound Digital Limited are as follows:
Arqiva Limited 40%
Bauer Radio Limited 30%
UTV Media (GB) Limited 30%

4. Sound Digital Limited will provide 15 national digital sound programme services, as follows:


Proposed provider

talkRADIO (news, current affairs and general speech)

UTV Media (GB) Limited

talkSPORT 2 (live sport and sports talk)

UTV Media (GB) Limited

talkBUSINESS (business and finance)

UTV Media (GB) Limited

Virgin Radio (rock and pop music)

UTV Media (GB) Limited

Kisstory (old skool dance tunes and anthems)

Bauer Radio Limited

Magic Mellow (relaxing and melodic music)

Bauer Radio Limited

Heat Radio (pop music, celebrity gossip and entertainment)

Bauer Radio Limited

Planet Rock (classic rock music)

Bauer Radio Limited

Absolute 80s (80s music)

Bauer Radio Limited

Sunrise Radio (Asian music and speech)

Sunrise Radio (London) Limited

British Muslim Radio (Asian music and speech, with elements of Islamic content)

Asian Sound Radio Limited

UCB Inspirational (Christian music)

United Christian Broadcasters Limited

Premier Christian Radio (Christian music and speech)

Premier Christian Media Trust

Jazz FM (non-mainstream music)

Jazz FM Investments Limited

DAB+ channel


5. Sound Digital Limited proposes to commence its service within 12 months of the licence being awarded, using a network of 45 transmitters which it estimates will provide coverage for 73% - 75% of UK households and 63% - 65% of UK major UK roads.

6. The Local DAB Expansion Plan is designed to improve the coverage of local DAB multiplexes around the UK. The plan is funded by Government, local radio multiplex operators and the BBC. The local DAB multiplexes carry both commercial radio services and BBC Local or Nations’ services.

7. Ofcom’s Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2014 can be found here: