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18 National DAB Stations to Launch in U.K.

New ‘Sound Digital’ multiplex to cover 75 percent of population, includes first national DAB+ services

LONDON — A new national commercial DAB digital radio multiplex is set to launch in the United Kingdom on 29 February, bringing a mix of new and existing radio stations to around 75 percent of the population.

Sound Digital Limited, a joint venture company formed by transmission services provider Arqiva, and broadcasters Bauer Media and UTV Media, will operate the new mux.

The multiplex will broadcast from 45 high-power sites across the U.K., and is projected to reach 46 million people and an estimated 88 percent of vehicles on the move.

The station line-up includes the U.K.’s first national services delivered via the newer DAB+ standard, using the more efficient HE-AAC v2 audio codec rather than the MP2 codec used by regular DAB broadcasts. Children’s station Fun Kids, and Jazz FM — both already available in the London area — along with Bauer’s new Magic Chilled will launch in stereo on DAB+, which is already adopted as standard in several other countries, including Australia, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, UTV Media is bringing the Virgin Radio brand back to the U.K., along with speech stations talkRADIO and talkSPORT 2. Bauer Media is launching two sister stations for its successful Magic brand — Mellow Magic and Magic Chilled, as well as existing stations KISSTORY, heat Radio, Absolute 80s and Planet Rock. Other independent stations will broadcast financial information, Christian programming and Asian music.

Some stations are transferring across from the existing national commercial multiplex known as Digital One, which launched in 1999 and now covers around 90 percent of U.K. households. This leaves room for further new services on this mux, such as Global Radio’s Heart extra, which will also launch on the same day as the new multiplex.

In addition, a major campaign is being introduced to encourage listeners to rescan their DAB radios in order to receive all the available services in their area. The latest RAJAR audience research shows that overall DAB listening share in the U.K. increased to a record level of 27.7 percent, with DAB ownership growing by 10 percent year-on-year to 54 percent of the population.