We can understand that from the perspective of local listeners, the launch dates of both our and other multiplex operator’s licences have come and gone frustratingly with not much information available about the reasons for these delays.
We would like to offer another (possibly equally frustrating) update to assure you that the radio silence is a result of continued workings behind the scenes and not a result of us wandering off to do something else.
As we have detailed before, since the licence awards there have been a number of changes to the regulatory environment which meant we had to begin a process of reviewing all of our plans. As Ofcom talk about in their latest consultation on DAB Planning, there is significant discussion about the coverage of each multiplex and the potential frequencies they will broadcast on. The aim behind this is to enable multiplexes to better match FM coverage and how to increase power levels that ensure the most robust reception for listeners. Additionally, there is a desire from Government to increase the overall coverage from existing and new multiplexes. All multiplex operators have entered into discussions about how this can be achieved (and paid for). The net benefit of all these discussions will be even better digital radio for listeners.
Getting through these discussions is tough. Multiplex operators, the BBC, the Government and Arqiva are all working together on a plan that will require big changes to their own business plans and transmission arrangements. At the same time, all changes have a knock-on effect to everyone. It’s a large puzzle that lots of people are working on and there are many iterations of the plan each week.
The progress is however good and we’re confident that we can get a result that’s even better for listeners and provides a network and infrastructure that’s attractive and affordable for service providers.
We’ve had a number of, understandably, angry emails suggesting that if we are not going to launch the multiplexes, we should hand the licences back. It is our absolute intention to launch the multiplexes, and the reality is that any new multiplex operator would be in exactly the same position, navigating the discussions with the industry to get the new local plan sorted out. Indeed, Now Digital, who also won some multiplexes in the last round, are in the same position as MuxCo.
From a business perspective, both MuxCo and our partners remain supportive of DAB and are keen to launch. We are comfortable with the financial structure of the multiplexes and that the multiplex will provide affordable and robust coverage for service providers. We also have a number of plans for new services that we are frustrated we cannot currently develop and would like to talk more about!
What we do know, however, is that the discussions taking place are going to put local digital radio in an even better position for listeners and service providers and when we’re in a position to launch, we will.