Not just Oneword 

10 January 2008 tbs.pm/9

Two digital radio stations to close

Barely two weeks into 2008 and digital radio has now lost not one but two radio stations. The final closure of Oneword was just a formality after Channel 4 sold its stake last week together with UBC Media writing off Oneword’s shareholding, but GCap closing its music station Core (expected to happen tomorrow) is another very unwelcome surprise for UK digital radio.

But unfortunately there’s potentially even worse news in that Core’s sister station Life is supposedly on the verge of closure as well, plus Chill has been removed from the digital satellite platform (but still available via other means). Both UK national and local radio is still relatively healthy in terms of listeners, so what has now gone wrong with digital radio?

After a strong start, the sales of DAB digital radio receivers is now starting to slow despite attempts to ‘piggyback’ digital radio to the digital television switchover, and it’s this together with an advertising slowdown that is now hitting the weaker parts of the media sector, namely digital-only national commercial radio stations.

Generic digital-only commercial music stations have fierce competition from local, national and international alternatives, and these stations have effectively been kept going as ‘vanity projects’ to promote digital radio platforms – DAB in particular – whilst waiting for a large enough audience for them to pay their own way.

However various digital-only radio stations are now finally running out of excuses (and money) to stay on air. It may be possible to partially attribute the launch of BBC Radio 7 for Oneword’s demise, but the truth of the matter is that there should be enough original non-BBC speech content (and listeners) out there to sustain a commercial alternative to the BBC.

This is what Channel 4 plans to prove with its forthcoming Channel 4 Radio, but Channel 4 has the ability to cross-promote its planned new radio services via a wide selection of established television programmes and channels which is something that Oneword never really had during its existence despite Channel 4’s partial involvement.

Ignoring the DAB sound quality issue may also be holding back the growth of DAB digital radio in particular, and this issue really needs escalating with both Ofcom and the various stations. After all, there’s going to be some additional spectrum space available with these station closures that could be put to good use if there are no other takers for it.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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David Hastings Contact More by me