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Channel 4 abandons digital radio plans

E4 and Pure4 DAB stations won't launch

DAB logo

Channel 4 announced yesterday that it is pulling out of plans to launch three national digital radio stations.

Which? digital radio expert Lizzy Payne said: ‘Falling advertising revenues will undoubtedly have a large impact upon commercial radio stations. It’s understandable that Channel 4 has decided to halt its station plans given the economic climate, and the amount of competition from other established DAB stations.

‘However, the decision from Channel 4 won’t affect any of the radio stations currently available on DAB, so it’s business as usual for radio listeners.’

The 4digital Group was awarded a 12-year broadcast licence in July 2007, and according to its website was launching services from summer 2008 onwards. Casualties of Channel 4’s decision include:

  • a Spring 2009 launch for a new youth-focused radio station – ‘E4 Radio’
  • a main ‘Channel 4’ Radio station
  • a music station ‘Pure4’.

The broadcaster, which has reportedly been hit by a 5% downturn in TV advertising revenues, wants to reduce costs by £100 million and says that pulling out of the digital radio proposals will save up to £10 million next year.

DAB future in doubt

The future of digital radio was thrown into doubt earlier in the year with the decision by Britain’s largest commercial radio company, GCap, to close several digital stations, including The Jazz.

Digital audio broadcasting (DAB) was embraced by radio companies more than a decade ago as a means of launching new stations and rivalling the BBC, but despite healthy sales of digital radio sets, the majority of listening on the sets is to traditional analogue stations.

Channel 4’s plans to launch commercial radio stations were backed by a consortium, which includes Bauer Radio, BSkyB, the Carphone Warehouse Group, UBC Media and UTV Radio. Regulator Ofcom said it would meet the other members of the consortium ‘to discuss how they propose to take matters forward.’

Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan said: “We’ve taken this decision very reluctantly. We’ve pursued our radio plans in good faith and continue to believe DAB has a strong future and that we could make a return from radio in the medium term.’

Which? has reviews of more than 80 digital radios online, including reviews of internet radios, which offer even more choice of radio stations.

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