Business News Media

Second national DAB network bids in, Virgin Radio could return

By | Published on Friday 30 January 2015

DAB logo

So, the bids are in, people. You know, the bids. From the two groups who would like to control the second national DAB digital radio network.

Yes, that’s the one Channel 4 once won ownership of with grand plans to launch its own network of radio channels, none of which ever got of the ground. The TV company blamed the credit crunch, if I remember rightly. And why not? But seven years on way more people have got DAB radio sets now, so it’ll all be fine this time round.

We already knew that media firms Bauer and UTV were joining forces to put in a bid, backed by broadcast services group Arqiva (which already operates the existing national DAB network).

Under the name Sound Digital, Bauer is proposing to plonk of bunch of its existing radio brands, like Heat Radio and Planet Rock, onto the new network, while UTV would bring to the table three new speech stations: a channel two version of its existing TalkSport, a service akin to the Talk Radio set-up out of which TalkSport originally grew, and a business news station backed by Bloomberg.

UTV has also reached an agreement with the Virgin Group to relaunch the Virgin Radio brand on the new network. Which is slightly ironic, as the original Virgin Radio morphed into Absolute Radio after its sale to the Times Of India Group in 2008, and that brand is now owned by Bauer. Indeed Absolute 80s is one of the services Bauer plans to put on the Sound Digital network if it wins control of the new DAB multiplex.

Confirming his link up to the Sound Digital proposal, that there Richard Branson was quoted by The Guardian: “It’s been a long held wish of mine to see Virgin Radio re-launch in the UK after the success we had with Virgin Radio UK in the 1990s. The team at Virgin Radio International has worked tirelessly to accomplish this and I’m delighted that UTV Media invited us to join their exciting plans for digital radio in the UK. We wish UTV Media and its consortium success in its application to OfCom”.

The whole Sound Digital pitch faces competition from a joint venture called Listen2Digital, which is led by Phil Riley’s Midlands-based radio company Orion Media, with Fun Kids owner Folder Media, Asian broadcaster Sabras Sound and infrastructure business Babcock International also on board.

Their national digital network would include channels for Orion’s GEM franchise and Folder’s Fun Kids set-up, plus a bunch of new services including business, sports, food and jazz-based channels. Commenting on his bid, Riley told reporters: “I have long thought that the UK radio industry needed more choice and more competition in the provision of DAB and I think our bid delivers that”.

Having confirmed it has received both bids, media regulator OfCom is now considering the two proposals, and is expected to announce a winner this spring.

READ MORE ABOUT: | | | | |