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U.K. DAB Multiplex Relicensing Plan Gains Support

Oversight committee approves extension of DAB multiplex license plan

A report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee of the House of Commons agrees with the recent decision by the U.K. government to renew automatically current DAB multiplex operator licenses.

In January, the government proposed allowing broadcast regulator Ofcom to renew the two national commercial radio multiplex licenses until year-end 2035 without going through a reapplication or competitive bid process. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport subsequently sought parliamentary approval to move forward with the draft legislative reform order.

In its report, the committee found that the automatic renewal process would be in the best interest of broadcasters and the public and would reduce “administrative inconvenience” and costs for the regulator.

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The report acknowledged that the move did disadvantage potential newcomers looking to operate the two national DAB multiplexes; however, based upon prior experience with bidding for both national and local DAB multiplexes it was determined that such new entrants were unlikely and that broadcasters and the public were better served by ensuring consistency through 2035.

The committee review is the latest step in advancing the legislative reform order. On Mar. 2, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee approved the draft order. The order must now be put before both houses of Parliament for approval.

If the order is approved, licenses for the two national DAB multiplexes will remain with their current holders — Digital One and Sound Digital — until Dec. 31, 2025. If it is not approved, the licenses would expire in 2023 and 2028 and a new application/bidding process would be held for each.