Jim Carroll

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Economic slump hits brave new world of digital radio

The global economic slump is giving the digital radio sector a bashing. Lately there has been a stream of bad news stories, with several high-profile UK companies either pulling the plug on existing digital stations or shelving launch plans. Channel …

Fri, Nov 7, 2008, 10:26

   

The global economic slump is giving the digital radio sector a bashing. Lately there has been a stream of bad news stories, with several high-profile UK companies either pulling the plug on existing digital stations or shelving launch plans.

Channel 4 has announced a shutdown of its digital radio division, citing a collapse in advertising revenue as the reason why it would not be progressing with its proposed three digital radio stations.

C4 is a partner in the 4 Digital consortium. Another member of that group, Bauer, was next to the punch with grim tidings. Later this month Bauer will close down Mojo, a digital music station spin-off from the magazine of the same name, again due to a fall in advertising revenue.

While Mojo enjoyed good listenership figures, commercial realities have forced Bauer to concentrate on other stations in its stable, such as Q, Heat and Smash Hits .

The Irish digital radio sector may also feel the pinch. RTÉ’s trial digital radio services began back in Mach 2007 and five digital stations will continue in business from December after the initial trial period ends.

However, the audience who can actually listen to indie music on 2XM or dance music on Pulse on a dedicated DAB digital radio set will continue to be limited to well under half the population.

At present, only those living in the greater Dublin, Cork, Limerick and north- east areas can actually tune in to these stations.

In a statement, RTÉ said it “intends to roll-out DAB digital radio to 56 per cent of the population over the coming three years”. But no firm commitments or schedules were given and it will become increasingly difficult for the station to find the cash needed to finance this roll-out.

With RTÉ sources saying that digital radio is seen as an “easy target” in the station’s ongoing quest for cutbacks, it may be a while before there’s a snazzy new radio set in every home in the land.