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Monday, 6th April 2009
Ofcom urges government to tear up the rule book for a Digital Britain

Media regulator Ofcom could undertake a wholesale review of DAB multiplexes and radio stations in the UK, if it is given the green light by the Government.

In potentially sweeping changes, it proposes relaxation of rules to allow radio operators to broadcast nationally throughout the UK on DAB digital radio, using a revised and expanded network of regional DAB multiplexes. In its proposals, smaller commercial radio stations could disappear overnight in a huge round of consolidation and mergers within the industry. Regional programming on larger stations would be dropped on both FM and DAB, with existing radio operators expanding their stations further to become quasi-national offerings, albeit continuing to sell regional advertising packages.

The regulator is planning to launch consultations on redefining geographical boundaries for digital radio multiplexes. In its sights is spare capacity on local radio multiplexes, suggesting it may be more amenable to station co-location and programme sharing, to enable them to meet the costs of launching on the digital platform to fill the gaps.Map of digital radio multiplexes
Under Ofcom's plans, the digital map will be redrawn, with local and regional multiplexes likely to merge

Ofcom has been outlining its proposals and suggestions in response to the Digital Britain Interim Report, published in January 2009.

In it, the radio regulator acknowledges many local stations might only survive as community stations, suggesting existing barriers could be dropped to allow others to merge to cover larger broadcast areas. It admits financial pressures and the downturn in advertising are the biggest concerns for the industry, whilst coverage and reception are a hindrance to DAB take-up for listeners. It views the DAB platform as a vehicle for more national and regional services, leaving FM to provide the route to small-scale community broadcasting.

Ofcom suggests national DAB services could become similar to that offered on the Freeview digital terrestrial TV platform model, but makes it clear it would like to see DAB offering a variety of stations of different output. However, it also points out that little headway has been made so far in exploiting the data capabilities of the platform, with little more than programme guides adding to the user experience.Visual Radio
Ofcom is hoping DAB will drop its retro feel and grasp new opportunities like visual radio

The radio regulator has suggested that the existing FM spectrum freed up by the migration to DAB could be used for more community radio stations.

To receive DAB digital radio stations in the UK, you need a DAB digital radio - a type of radio that can receive digital radio broadcasts. For more information, read our guide to DAB digital radio and discover more about radios available to buy.



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guide to DAB digital radio, on this website.
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