Digital Radio Boost for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland got a big digital radio boost today with the landmark launch by Arqiva of 14 national digital radio stations on DAB at an event held at the iconic Ulster Hall in Belfast.

The Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, together with music star Dana, switched on the signal at the Ulster Hall, bringing 1.4 million people 14 digital radio stations on digital national commercial radio on for the first time. This will reach 80% of households in Northern Ireland, with 10 of the stations for the first time on DAB.

The switch-on was marked by a unique collaboration between commercial broadcasters and featured live performances by Neil Hannon's Duckworth Lewis Method and Imagination star Leee John.

The switch-on of 6 new DAB digital radio transmitters by Arqiva at Divis, Carnmoney Hill, Londonderry, Brougher Mountain, Strabane and Limavady means that 1.4 million listeners can now enjoy a full variety of different stations with rock, pop, dance, jazz, classical and decade stations, in addition to religious and sports stations. Commentary for Premier League matches will be broadcast in Northern Ireland on DAB on both talkSPORT and Absolute Radio, in addition to BBC Radio 5 Live.

The full 14 DAB station line-up is: Absolute Radio, Absolute Radio 80s, Absolute Radio 90s, Smooth Radio, Smooth 70s, Jazz FM, Planet Rock, Team Rock, BFBS and Premier Christian Radio, and Classic FM, talkSPORT, Kiss and UCB. Listeners in Northern Ireland will now be able to listen to a total of 31 DAB digital radio stations including 11 BBC stations such as BBC Radio Ulster, and a total of 20 commercial radio stations.

To receive the new services, listeners with digital radios may have to re-tune their sets - click here find out more.

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, who hosted the event, says: "This is great news for radio listeners in Northern Ireland as they can now receive the full range of national commercial digital radio stations."

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín, says: "Boosting digital radio coverage for the North of Ireland means the excellent range of national DAB digital radio stations can be received by even more listeners, at home and in their car."

Bryan Coombes, Commercial Director at Arqiva, says: "Arqiva supports the development of digital radio throughout the UK and we are delighted to be extending our national digital radio network to Northern Ireland."

The new digital transmitter network will provide robust DAB coverage to nearly 80% of households in Northern Ireland and 62% of the main road network in Northern Ireland. Digital radios are increasingly becoming available in cars and according to new industry data 39% of all new cars now have digital radio as standard.

This switch-on coincides with a Government announcement that they will make a decision on a futuredigital radio switchover later in 2013. Digital listening in the Northern Ireland has lagged behind digital listening in the rest of the UK (in Nothern Ireland it is 21.1%, vs 34.3% in the UK - RAJAR Q1 2013) due to the lack of commercial radio stations available on DAB. That is now expected to change with today's launch which should lead to an increase in digital listening and DAB digital radio sales in Northern Ireland.

The radio industry communications campaign featuring digital radio evangelist D Love, who encourages everyone to spread the love for digital radio, is currently on air on BBC TV, BBC radio (including BBC Radio Ulster) and commercial radio in Northern Ireland.

Absolute Radio Chief Executive, Donnach O'Driscoll said "We're delighted to be able to bring Absolute Radio and its sister stations Absolute 80s and Absolute Radio 90s to Northern Ireland."

Dee Ford, CEO of Bauer Radio, says: "It's great news that listeners in Northern Ireland can get Planet Rock for the first time,  and more listeners can get Kiss."

Mark Lee, CEO of Real and Smooth Ltd says: "We're looking forward to introducing music lovers from right across Northern Ireland to Smooth Radio's selection of musical greats and the very best disco, pop and soul on Smooth 70s."

Calum Macaulay, talkSPORT Managing Director says: "It's great to expand the coverage of talkSPORT in Northern Ireland, giving even more listenersthe chance to hear our wide range of sport coverage including live and exclusive Barclays Premier League commentary."

Nicky Ness, Controller of BFBS Radio, says: "BFBS has a very loyal and supportive forces audience in Northern Ireland, used to our established community FM services in four separate locations. The DAB launch allows those listeners to keep connected with the BFBS national service wherever they are in the Province, as well as reaching a wider audience of friends and families - a welcome enhancement to our coverage."

Peter Kerridge, CEO of Premier Christian Radio, says: "We are pleased and proud to welcome our new Northern Ireland audience to Premier Christian Radio - Britain's biggest Christian broadcaster. We hope to offer inspiration and support to Christians and the Church in Northern Ireland with programmes covering a wide range of news, features, interviews and music from a broad Christian perspective."

Dana Scallon says: "This is great news for Northern Ireland.  The availability of a broad spectrum of digital radio stations on DAB here will provide much needed programming and I would like to congratulate everyone involved. It is particularly good news for me because it means that my new show on Premier Christian Radio will be available here from tomorrow."

David L'Herroux, Managing Director, United Christian Broadcasters, says: "UCB has been broadcasting across Northern Ireland on DAB for several years, but it's fantastic that so much choice has now become available.   We hope this expansion will encourage more people to listen on DAB radio - including tuning into some great Christian music on UCB."

Richard Wheatly, CEO of Jazz FM, says: "We're delighted that listeners in Northern Ireland can now listen to Jazz FM on DAB."

Billy Anderson, CEO of TeamRock, says: "It is fantastic that we are able to bring our new radio station TeamRock Radio to the rock fans of Northern Ireland. It's an exciting time for us, we are growing fast and we want you to BELONG."

Fergus Keeling, Head of Radio, BBC Northern Ireland says: "The BBC supports the growth of digital radio in Northern Ireland and listeners can already enjoy BBC Radio Ulster, all the BBC network stations and digital-only stations on DAB."

26.07.2013 | General, Stations

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