Media: Lifeline - Digital radio

Digital One thought it had a monopoly and is furious that Ofcom plans to hand out a second licence.

1998: Digital One, a joint venture by GWR and ntl, led by GWR's boss, Ralph Bernard (pictured), is awarded the UK's only commercial national digital audio broadcasting multiplex. It offers seven new digital-only stations and believes it has a 24-year monopoly.

1999: Commercial digital radio launches in the UK with five stations: old favourites such as Classic FM, Virgin and Talk; plus Core (contemporary hits) and Planet Rock. Digital One and BBC Digital also form a collaborative venture to begin marketing the medium, as 500,000 visitors to the London Motor Show get the chance to try out the latest in prototype digital car radios.

2001: The Digital Radio Development Bureau attempts to stimulate the sale of DAB sets with a pre-Christmas promotion and media owners such as Chrysalis and Emap now show a willingness to bid for and win local digital licences. But the real story in digital radio is the growth of listening to Emap's national stations on digital television platforms.

2003: Growth of DAB listening continues to be slow, with penetration of DAB sets reaching only 435,000 at the end of the year. But DAB stations are now measured by Rajar for the first time and GWR continues to be at the forefront when it comes to investing in the new medium - working, for instance, with BT to develop datacasting capacity on Digital One.

2005: Bernard, now the chief executive of GCap Media, is stunned when Ofcom announces that it now plans to create a second commercial multiplex. He threatens legal action and is made even more furious when rival commercial radio groups round on him for doing so. He wants more gratitude for Digital One's commitment of time, energy and finance to the future of digital radio.

Fast forward ...

2007: GCap's new venture capitalist owners pull out of Digital One and it collapses. Now Ofcom threatens GCap with legal action. But the Ofcom boss, Stephen Carter (pictured), is called before a Parliamentary committee to explain his recent policies on digital radio.

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