C4-led consortium wins digital radio licence

Channel 4-led radio consortium 4 Digital Group has won the licence for the second national commercial digital multiplex. The group, which also includes BSkyB and EMAP, is now gearing up for the launch of a series of stations over the next 18 months.

It will include three branded services from Channel 4 – Channel 4 Radio, a contemporary speech-based station, E4 Radio, a music and entertainment service aimed at a youth audience, and Pure4, a station for music lovers.

EMAP is launching Closer Radio, a station aimed a female audience, and Sky and Chrysalis Radio will launch Sky News Radio, which will also see LBC rebranded as its dedicated London station.

Nathalie Schwarz, the chairman of 4 Digital Group and Channel 4 director of radio, says: “From the start of this process we were confident that the strength of our consortium partners combined with our proposed line up of distinctive radio stations and content offered a genuine extension of choice for UK listeners and the chance to drive forward take-up of digital radio.”

The consortium’s other partners include Talksport owner UTV, Carphone Warehouse, CanWest, the Canadian radio group that owns Original Radio, and content provider UBC Media.

Channel 4 beat a bid from National Grid Wireless (NGW) to win the 12-year licence. National Grid did not release specific details of it bids but outlined plans for a Radio 2-style music station and a music and lifestyle station for over 50 year olds. It also revealed a £14m marketing partnership with the BBC and Digital One, the operator of the first national multiplex led by GCap Media.

Tony Moretta, general manager broadcast at NGW, says: “We are obviously disappointed at not being awarded the new licence, especially as we believed our proposal offered a cost-effective platform for the expansion of digital radio.”

NGW caused controversy when it submitted its bid by allocating space for Channel 4. The broadcaster denied it has any talks with NGW.

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