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Ofcom plans up to 10 additional national digital radio stations

LONDON - Ofcom has proposed to expand UK digital radio by releasing DAB spectrum for up to 10 new national stations, as well as to fill gaps in local coverage.

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The proposals have been published in Ofcom's radio review, which was the subject of opposition from national radio group GCap Media over the summer.

GCap was initially against the creation of any more national radio stations, arguing that its sole national licence had been granted on the basis that no more national stations would be licensed until 2010, although GCap chief executive Ralph Bernard last month toned down his rhetoric.

This morning, radio group UBC, which owns a stake in One Word and Classic Gold Digital, said it welcomed the regulator's plans.

Ofcom acknowledged "objections" to its plans but stressed its view that listeners' interests will be best served by making more services available nationally.

"The Communications Acts is clear that Ofcom has a duty to secure a wide range of radio services throughout the UK, that taken as a whole are both of high quality and appeal to a variety of tastes and interests.

"In our view, this should be taken to mean that any new services on the additional national multiplex should appeal to tastes and interests that are distinct from those met by the existing commercial multiplex," it said.

The regulator said that its plans for additional local spectrum would allow all analogue BBC stations and almost all analogue commercial stations -- those accounting for 95% of commercial listening -- to go digital.

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