Commercial radio has joined the digital scuffle with consortium Digital One getting the go ahead to launch commercial digital radio in one year.
There is a group of 10 stations involved in the project including Classic FM, Virgin and Talk Radio. Chris Evans' Ginger Media Group, which owns Virgin Radio, dropped out of the consortium earlier this year but said it will broadcast as a 'tenant' of Digital One.
The consortium will be broadcast on the multiplex, a group of linked stations and is currently the only one planned for national commercial radio.
The sound on digital radio is said to be clearer than on FM and will be able to provide greater, text services than at present - including travel and weather information.
BBC Radio automatically took the space on the other national digital multiplex, and has been broadcasting digital signals for some time. However it has attracted a small audience as digital radios are required, which are expensive and not yet widely available.
"For the first time in history, commercial radio will be on a level playing field with the BBC nationally,? commented Digital One chairman Ralph Bernard. "Radio is already a highly involving experience and that experience is about to become even richer, with high-quality sound complemented by visual and text back-up,? he continued.
The consortium did not face any real competition for the digital slot, as it was the only bidder, but the bid could have been rejected if the Radio Authority had not been satisfied the consortium could meet the requirements of the Broadcasting Act.
Digital One will pay #10,000 a year for its licence, underlining its commitment to the technology. The consortium is promising a wealth of programmes including rolling news, sports coverage, classic rock, classical, plays and book readings as well as pop and talk shows.
Digital One plans to go live next October with about 69 per cent coverage of the country, excluding Northern Ireland where a separate licence will be awarded.
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