New broadcast bill heralded as ‘new era for DAB’

The Private Members’ small-scale DAB bill received Royal Assent to be passed into law as an Act of Parliament on April 27.

The new bill, which is officially know as the Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill 2016/17, will provide the means for a huge expansion of local and community stations on DAB.

Digital Radio UK has heralded the development as “an historic day for UK radio”.

There are currently 10 small-scale DAB multiplex trails in place with more than 140 local stations on air in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Portsmouth, Cambridge, Brighton, Aldershot, Bristol and Norwich.

The bill will enable Government and Ofcom to create a regulatory regime for the licensing of local commercial and community radio stations on small-scale DAB multiplexes across the UK.

The beginning of additional local DAB capacity and the ability of local stations to broadcast affordably on DAB will lower the barriers to entry for small and new start-up commercial and community radio broadcasters.

The bill was introduced into Parliament by Kevin Foster MP, who supported the need for ultra-local commercial and community radio stations to have a path to DAB in a digital age.

The small-scale DAB approach was developed and pioneered by Ofcom engineer Rashid Mustapha, and the first trial was launched in Brighton by Daniel Nathan of Brighton’s Juice 107.2.

Mr Foster said: “I am delighted that with Royal Assent, the bill has become law, marking an exciting new era ahead for digital radio at a local level. It being passed in Norman French is perhaps a symbol of how it will allow the tradition of excellence in British local radio to continue and thrive on this most modern of platforms. I cannot wait to be hearing the new listening choices this bill will bring to digital radio listeners across the country.”

Ford Ennals, chief executive of Digital Radio UK, commented: “This is a big day for radio and potentially the start of a new era for DAB offering an affordable path to digital for ultra-local commercial and community radio stations right across the UK. Our thanks to Kevin Foster MP for the first piece of broadcasting legislation prompted by an individual MP and to Rashid Mustapha of Ofcom and Daniel Nathan for their excellent pioneering work on the small-scale DAB technology.”