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Small-scale DAB legislation to take final Parliamentary hurdles

Legislation that will make small-scale DAB multiplexes a permanent part of the UK's digital radio landscape is reaching its final hurdles in Parliament.

The Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill 2016-17 will reach Committee Stage in the House of Lords on Tuesday 14th March, after a smooth passage through the House of Commons, and two readings in the House of Lords. Assuming the Bill continues to pass through Parliament unopposed, it will reach the House of Lords report stage and may become an Act of Parliament before Easter.

On Tuesday, the House of Lords will take a line-by-line examination of the Bill, which will ultimately enable Ofcom to issue long-term licences for small-scale DAB multiplexes, and licence small-scale DAB multiplexes beyond the ten locations where the technology has been trialed since 2015. 

Small-scale DAB aims to make it possible for more community and niche stations to launch on the terrestrial digital radio platform, using mostly low powered transmitters to cover a smaller area than traditional DAB multiplexes. 

Since the trial multiplexes launched in 2015, they have been at the forefront of new DAB technology: Earlier this month, Brighton's trial small-scale DAB multiplex became the first UK multiplex to switch entirely to the newer DAB+ standard, which opens up multiplexes to more users and enables stereo transmissions at lower bitrates. The Portsmouth multiplex led the way in introducing DAB slide show functionality across its stations, enabling viewers to see information slides containing news, information and playlist details on compatible DAB radios. And Manchester's small-scale DAB multiplex has seen high demand by new and niche stations wanting to get a foothold onto DAB digital radio. The demand for capacity on Manchester's small-scale DAB multiplex has been used in the industry as justification for lobbying for a permanent second multiplex serving the area.