BBC rebuts prevarication claims over digital radio

The BBC has hit back at claims by Capital Radio that it is dragging its heels over its commitment to digital radio.

Sally Oldham, managing director of Capital Radio, which owns local digital multiplexes in London, Birmingham and Manchester, accused the BBC of stalling negotiations over the price of taking up its guaranteed space (MW February 3).

But BBC Broadcast head of distribution and gateway Nigel Sharman, in a letter to Marketing Week, says the corporation wrote to Capital in December seeking a meeting and awaits a response and is “keen to start discussing terms”.

Sharman says: “The BBC Board of Governors recently approved funding to take up space on the first group of local multiplexes, and we are now keen to start negotiations to get the best possible outcome for our licence fee payers.”

But Oldfield denies knowledge of the letter and says she believes the BBC has been in talks with other multiplex operators: “We are not at loggerheads with the BBC, we just hope it is not using The Davies Report as an excuse to delay its plans.”

A decision on the The Davies Report, which examines BBC funding, is due imminently. Capital’s multiplexes are expected to go live this summer.

Capital Radio chief executive David Mansfield this week called for the Government to announce a switch-off date for analogue radio. A date of 2006 has been set to switch off analogue TV, but no commitment has been given for digital radio.

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