|Digital Radio spreads D Love and announces future plans|
In the "Drive2Digital" event, in which over 300 automotive industry and broadcaster attendees learned about the progress being made on fitting DAB digital radios in cars, it was confirmed that the government will not make a decision on whether to stage a "digital radio switchover" for another year. However, it was announced that the BBC will provide details of the planned expansion of its national DAB multiplex to 97% in the spring. The multiplex expansion is to target motorways and main roads.
Previously, there had been concerns as to how the BBC would be able to increase coverage, due to the constraints of DAB and the single frequency network it uses. The details will outline how the BBC intends to expand coverage without signals from extra transmitters cancelling each other out.
It was confirmed that 13 new local multiplexes will launch in the coming years, providing additional DAB services in locations where local and regional services are not yet available. Locations include Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire. A second national commercial DAB multiplex to rival Digital 1 would, however, only be launched "when the timing was right". The previously planned second DAB multiplex, that had been awarded to Channel 4 for more commercial radio stations, fell foul of tough economic conditions and was given the axe before it even hit the airwaves. A local DAB multiplex serving North East Wales will be the next new multiplex to go live in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, listeners will asked to spread "D Love" in a new marketing campaign, featuring a 15-inch puppet, which will start on BBC and commercial stations from next month. Ford Ennals, chief executive of Digital Radio UK, said the mascot would be an "advocate" and "evangelist" for digital radio, describing him as a "smooth soulman".
DAB digital radio has endured several tough years, which started when established stations such as Oneword closed down in January 2008, swiftly followed by a raft of DAB station closures, which saw the national Digital 1 multiplex using "Birdsong" as a filler. Disputes over the future funding of DAB rollout delayed local DAB services from launching; with the notable exception of North Devon, where an expansion of the Devon multiplex ensured Global Radio's Heart North Devon station got an automatic licence renewal. Earlier this year, a memorandum was signed by all the major stakeholders in digital radio, indicating that for the first time in over four years, momentum to support DAB digital radio was beginning to pick up.