More digital radio stations on their way to UK listeners

14 September 2016

  • Applicants for second national digital radio multiplex announced

Ofcom today announced two applications to run a second national, commercial digital radio ‘multiplex’ in the UK, which will deliver around 15 new national DAB stations next year.

A multiplex is a discrete chunk of the airwaves needed to broadcast radio stations. Ofcom invited applications to run the multiplex in July 2014, stating that Ofcom would consider whether bidders are looking to offer something new to UK audiences.

Ofcom hopes to award the licence by summer 2015 and the first new digital stations are expected to be on air in 2016.

Ofcom has received applications from:

  • Listen2Digital: A joint application from Babcock’s Media Services business and Orion Media, a commercial radio group.
  • Sound Digital: A consortium of Arqiva, a transmission company, and commercial radio broadcasters Bauer and UTV Media GB.

Listen2Digital is proposing to provide 18 national DAB services, and Sound Digital is proposing to provide 15 national DAB services.

The proposed service lists are available below.

Ofcom expects to publish non-confidential versions of the applicants’ proposals next week and will invite comments from listeners and the industry. Each application will be assessed against specified criteria, in what is known as a ‘beauty contest’.

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.

The first national, commercial DAB multiplex, operated by Digital One, is now at full capacity as the number of national, commercial digital stations has risen from four to 14 since 2009.

This has led to the need for more capacity so Ofcom advertised the second, commercial DAB 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.



1. The licence award will be made under the Broadcasting Act 1996, which requires Ofcom to consider how each applicant would promote the development of DAB radio in the UK.

2. Ofcom will publish non-confidential versions of each applicant's proposals next week. These will include the number of digital sound programme services, digital additional services and television licensable content services (as appropriate) to be broadcast, and details of the characteristics of each of those services, together with such other information connected with the application as Ofcom considers appropriate. At the same time, Ofcom will invite representations to be made to it with respect to the applications submitted. The summaries and details on how to respond will be available at:

3. About Listen2Digital

Listen2Digital Limited
c/o Orion Media, Nine Brindley Place, 4 Oozells Square, Birmingham B1 2DJ
Contact: Phil Riley.  Tel: 0121 566 5441.  Email:

The shareholders of Listen2Digital Limited are as follows:

Orion Media Holdings Limited 45%
Babcock Communications Limited 35%
Folder Media Limited 5%
Sabras Sound Limited 5%
Individuals 10%

4. Listen2Digital Limited is proposing to provide 18 national digital sound programme services, as follows:

ServiceProposed provider
GEM (female adult contemporary)Orion Media
Fun Kids (children's radio)Children's Radio UK
TBC (contemporary hits)Confidential
TBC (food)USP/Confidential
TBC (jazz)Confidential
Wireless (oldies)Age UK
Nation (male adult contemporary)Town & Country Broadcasting
Sabras (contemporary Asian)Sabras Sound
Panjab Radio (Asian specialist)Panjab Radio
TBC (modern rock)Confidential
Share Radio (money)Share Radio
Premier Gospel (Christian Gospel)Premier Christian Communications
Premier Radio (Christian Inspirational)Premier Christian Communications
Sport Radio (sports)Confidential
RTÉ Radio 1 (Irish community)RTÉ
Gaydio (LGBT community)Gaydio Digital
Chris Country (country music)Chris Country Broadcasting
Upload Radio (special programmes and events)Folder Media

5. Listen2Digital Limited proposes to commence its service in the second quarter of 2016, using a network of 42 transmitters which it estimates will provide 'indoor' coverage of 81.5% of the UK adult (aged 15+) population and 'outdoor' coverage of 89% of the UK adult (aged 15+) population.  It further states that it will achieve coverage of 94% of the motorway network, 69% of primary 'A' roads and 66% of other 'A' roads.

6. About Sound Digital Limited

Sound Digital Limited
3 South Avenue, Clydebank, Glasgow G81 2RX
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%

7. Sound Digital Limited is proposing to provide 15 national digital sound programme services, as follows:

ServiceProposed 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 TBC

8. 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 of 73% of UK households and 63% of major roads.  If international agreement is reached, Sound Digital Limited proposes to increase this coverage to 75% of households and 65% of major roads.

9. 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
  • UCB UK

10. 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.

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