Reception trouble 

28 March 2007

Channel 4 queries rival digital radio bid

The National Grid Wireless Bid

The 4 Digital bid

Today was the deadline for the submission of bids to run the new second national commercial DAB multiplex, and it now looks as if the squabbling has begun well before the final result is announced (probably by July if everything goes to plan).

Put simply, National Grid Wireless included two radio stations in its multiplex proposal tentatively labelled “Channel 4 Radio 1” (for under-35’s) and “Channel 4 Radio 2” (“Radio 4” for a younger audience), but Channel 4 says that it has never agreed anything with NGW.

Channel 4 claims that the three stations included in its own consortium’s 4 Digital Group bid are exclusive to that particular bid, therefore attempts to cast doubt over the basic viability of NGW’s multiplex bid. But if the NGW bid succeeds, expect a change of tune from C4.

The “Channel 4 Radio 1”-style of labelling is so obviously a placeholder as opposed to a firm proposal, and as NGW hasn’t included Channel 4 in its list of agreed content providers it should have relatively little to worry about (all things considered).

As for the multiplex bids, both 4 Digital Group’s and NGW’s proposals have their plus and minus points, though the NGW proposal looks better on paper if you take everything into consideration (something C4 is probably very worried about).

One interesting point about the NGW proposal is that the BBC Asian Network will move from the BBC National DAB multiplex onto the NGW multiplex in order to give “improved sound quality” (a statement not heard for a very long time in relation to DAB).

Therefore by definition this means that there could be more space available on the BBC National DAB multiplex as a result, meaning that the bitrates for some existing stations could be improved (maybe 160kbps for Radio 1 and 2).

The downside to the NGW bid is the involvement of Digital One, since the latter are already heavily involved in DAB therefore some might regard this as not providing enough competition, plus the inclusion of a Radio Play quiz channel may not have been a good idea given recent events.

As for 4 Digital’s bid, the inclusion of BSkyB (no matter how tiny) could have the future potential to be rather risky, and Channel 4’s mismanagement of the Celebrity Big Brother controversy is too recent to ignore as a possible factor against this proposal.

However the potential strengths of the NGW bid (such as the proposed investment in DAB promotion, a relatively good track record, etc.) may end up outweighing any possible negatives. And when all things are considered, stability could end up as being the most important factor.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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