Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, Friday awarded a license to a group of companies to operate the U.K.'s third digital radio multiplex, in a bid to boost growth in the sector, reports Dow Jones. The license went to 4 Digital – a consortium led by Channel 4, the U.K. broadcaster, and which also includes Emap, British Sky Broadcasting Group, Carphone Warehouse and UTV.
A multiplex allows the broadcast of several radio signals on the same frequency via the Eureka 147 system. The group, in which Channel 4 is the majority shareholder, has pledged to launch eight national digital radio stations and nine podcast services within 12 months. 4 Digital plans to launch speech stations, a news service, children's, female- oriented and Asian stations.
The U.K. has two existing digital radio multiplexes: Digital One, launched in 1999, which is 63% owned by GCap Media, the U.K.'s largest radio operator; and a separate multiplex operated by the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corp.GCap lobbied the U.K. government not to go ahead with plans to launch a second commercial multiplex, claiming it had been given assurances it would be the exclusive multiplex operator. The U.K.'s commercial radio sector has been depressed for the past two years, as advertisers have shifted dollars to the Internet.