Virgin Radio could return to the airwaves in a digital restart | Commercial radio


Virgin Radio could return to the airwaves as part of one of two competing deals to lead the next wave of national digital radio stations.

The return of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand is part of an offer presented by Sound Digital, a consortium made up of the owner of TalkSport UTV Media, the parent of Magic Bauer and the transmission company Arqiva, to manage the second multiplex. national commercial digital radio.

“I have wanted to see Virgin Radio relaunch in the UK for a long time after the success we had with Virgin Radio UK in the 90s,” said Branson. “The Virgin Radio International team have worked tirelessly to achieve this and I am delighted that UTV Media has invited us to join their exciting projects for digital radio in the UK. We wish UTV Media and its consortium success in their candidacy to Ofcom.

The Virgin Radio brand disappeared from the UK in 2008 when the station, once owned by Chris Evans, was renamed Absolute Radio by its new owner, The Times of India Group. The station has since been purchased by Bauer.

UTV has entered into an agreement with Branson’s Virgin Group to use the mark for a new digital station if Sound Digital’s offer is successful.

Sound Digital faces competition from a competing offering, Listen2 Digital, backed by former chief executive of Chrysalis Radio, Phil Riley’s Midlands radio group, Orion Media, and engineering services firm Babcock International .

Sound Digital’s offering includes a TalkSport-derived talk radio station, similar to that offered in Channel 4’s aborted digital radio plans seven years ago, as well as TalkSport 2 and a commercial station operated by UTV and supported by Bloomberg.

Bauer offers to operate stations on the Sound Digital platform, including Heat Radio, Absolute 80s and Planet Rock, all of which are already well established on digital platforms, and Kisstory, a spin-off from Kiss.

Listen2Digital offers an 18-station offering including a food network, a station for older listeners called Wireless from Age UK, and a new sports station.

Alongside a new modern rock / indie station, a dedicated jazz, blues and soul network and a top 40 station, it will provide a national platform for the digital children’s station Fun. Kids as well as a UK-wide version of the contemporary adult resort Gem of Orion. .

The Listen2Digital offering also includes Upload Radio, which it says will provide a “unique opportunity to broadcast its material to a national audience”, a commercial and financial network and two Christian services and two Asian services.

Other shareholders in the Listen2Digital offering include owner of Fun Kids Folder Media and Asian broadcaster Sabras Sound.

Riley, who is President of Listen2Digital, said: “I have long believed that the UK radio industry needed more choice and more competition in the provision of DAB and I believe our offering is there. respond.”

Details of the two offers were confirmed by media regulator Ofcom on Thursday, with the winning offer due to be announced in the spring.

Last year, Ofcom put out a tender to operate a second national digital audio broadcasting (DAB) multiplex.

It comes seven years after Channel 4 won the right to operate a second DAB multiplex, only for the broadcaster to unplug its proposals, blaming the economic slowdown.

Digital radio has grown in popularity, but not at the expected rate, with predictions that the industry could keep pace with television with the digital switchover by 2017 proving premature.

The bidders:

Sound Digital Consortium (UTV Media 30%, Bauer 30% and Arqiva 40%)

15 stations

UTV Media

Virgin Radio in partnership with Virgin Group
TalkSport 2
Talk Radio – news and current affairs
Talk business


Magic Mellow – “relaxing and melodic” music
Kisstory – “old skool” dance tunes and hymns
Heat radio
Absolute 80s
Planet Rock – classic rock

Other stations:

Jazz FM to provide “non-mainstream” music station
Premier Christian Radio and UCB Inspiration for Christian Audiences
British Muslim Radio
Sunrise Radio

Listen2Digital Consortium (Orion Media 45%, Babcock International 35%, Folder Media 5%, Sabras Sound 5% and “individuals” 10%)

18 stations

GEM – contemporary adult woman
Fun kids
Contemporary tube station – confidential details
Catering station – confidential details
Jazz station – confidential details
Wireless – “old” from Age UK
Nation – contemporary adult male from Town & Country Broadcasting
Sabras – contemporary Asian
Panjab Radio
Modern rock station – confidential details
Share Radio – financial
First Gospel
Premier Radio
Sports radio – confidential details
RTE Radio 1
Chris Country – country music
Upload Radio – Folder Media special programs and events


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