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UK government opens consultation on future of national digital radio multiplexes

By | Published on Monday 26 July 2021

There are currently two national digital radio networks – or DAB ‘multiplexes’ if you prefer – in the UK, one run by Digital One Ltd and the other by Sound Digital Ltd, both of which operate under licences issued by the government. Any national station available in the UK via the digital audio broadcasting system is utilising one of those multiplexes.

However, the licence currently being used by Digital One is due to expire in November 2023 and, under the current rules, that means that media regulator OfCom should now be getting ready to put that licence up for tender.

But the government’s Department Of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport noted last week that “there have been calls by some commercial operators for the government to consider allowing OfCom automatically to renew the national multiplex licences as this would provide the sector with certainty and support”.

To that end, the DCMS has opened up a consultation for interested parties to let ministers know their viewpoints on all this.

Current options are to amend the law so that Digital One’s licence can just automatically renew itself, which would give the company another twelve year stint running the multiplex. Or have OfCom re-advertise the licence as current rules dictate.

Or there is a possible middle-ground, whereby both Digital One and Sound Digital’s current licences would be extended through 2030, so they both come up for renewal at the same time as all the licences covering the local DAB multiplexes around the UK.

So what do you think? On the off chance you do have strong opinions on the future operations of the digital radio networks in the UK – well, tell the government, not me.