- Ginger Media Group, the company formed by Chris Evans, and GWR have joined forces in a new consortium to bid for the only UK national commercial digital radio (DAB) licence, which was advertised this week by the Radio Authority.
The unusual bedfellows each already own a national radio licence -- for Virgin AM and Classic FM respectively -- between them commanding more than 75 per cent of national commercial radio's audience. Digital One, as the consortium has been named, will begin broadcasting during 1999 if its application is successful.
The national digital multiplex will carry the three national stations currently broadcasting -- Classic, Virgin and Talk Radio -- and has room for up to five more, for which the winning consortium will have responsibility.
Quentin Howard, chief executive-designate of Digital One and head of GWR's digital division, explained: "We are doing extensive audience research and will use our findings to determine what format the brand-new set of stations will take. The aim of the business is to compete head-to-head with the BBC.
If the bid is successful, Virgin and Classic will continue to run as two separate entities, though Howard said: "The new stations could be run by individuals, or by one entity."
Ralph Bernard, chief executive of the GWR Group, said: "Digital takes radio into its Third Age, after AM and FM. It will become multimedia yet still retain all the strengths and benefits we enjoy in radio now -- strong listener loyalty and trust, entertaining yet informative and, above all, portable and personal."