More gloom for DAB 

28 March 2008 tbs.pm/875

Digital Spy: Channel 4’s DAB mux faces more delays

This isn’t really that surprising but such news will just conspire to add more gloom to radio industry executives; it now looks increasingly likely that Channel 4 Radio (usually tipped as a possible saviour of DAB as it stands) will not begin broadcasting before November 2008 at the earliest, which in turn will probably mean Spring 2009.

And the contracts for the 4Digital transmitter network haven’t even been signed yet.

Factor in the time required to attract new listeners and it strongly looks like the end of 2009 before the 4Digital Group’s project will be able to gain any real momentum. There’s also a danger that certain executives within Channel 4 will effectively disown the 4Digital project as time progresses, testing the nerves of everyone involved with 4Digital.

Another potential problem for the industry is that some listeners may turn their back on DAB in the period between the closure of GCap’s national DAB services such as Planet Rock and the launch of Channel 4 Radio as the gap grows ever larger; the radio industry will have to rely on BBC and local DAB services to sustain public interest in the interim.

Perhaps a much more serious concern for the industry are signs of waning enthusiasm elsewhere amongst the smaller operators of local commercial DAB stations, which is partly attributed to GCap’s recent and very public anti-DAB stance that shook a radio industry trying to put on a brave face in a difficult commercial environment.

The radio industry is currently caught between a rock and a hard place; DAB cannot be made more attractive to new listeners without a greater variety of content, plus any rumblings of discontent in relation to sound quality may never be properly resolved without regulation and ultimately may require the adoption of the DAB+ standard.

Which arguably would have been the best long term solution to the DAB problem, but this is unlikely to happen if the radio industry is left alone to muddle on regardless. And ultimately Ofcom plus the government will have to concede defeat on the principle of encouraging operators to be sparing in their use of DAB multiplex bandwidth.