Media Lifeline: Digital radio

Despite being enshrined in law, it appears DAB still has a way to go before it can be considered a success.

1996: Following five years of extensive technical trials at Crystal Palace, the BBC goes ahead and launches regular Digital Audio Broadcast transmissions of its Radio 1 and Five Live output. And DAB's future seems assured when in its 1996 Broadcasting Act, the Government assesses that DAB technology will have a major part to play in the race to digitise Britain's media sector.

1999: In 1998, the first national commercial DAB licence was awarded to Digital One, championed by Ralph Bernard, a future boss of GCap. In 1999, Digital One launches a range of channels, but portable digital radios are not commercially available.

2004: In the run-up to Christmas, DAB passes an important milestone - there are now DAB receivers in more than one million UK homes. But the really hot news in digital radio isn't DAB but the Freeview platform that launched in 2002 and is already in more than four million homes. It carries a wide spectrum of digital radio stations, including the full BBC line-up and, in the commercial sector, the likes of Kiss, Heat, Magic, Heart talkSPORT and Virgin Radio.

July 2007: The 4 Digital Group, a consortium led by Channel 4, is awarded the UK's second commercial DAB multiplex. It's the conclusion to events that had seen GCap (which believed Digital One had been given an exclusive run at the commercial DAB market) threatening to sue the media regulator, Ofcom. 4 Digital plans ten services including three speech and music stations from Channel 4, plus Closer and Sky News Radio.

January 2008: But a report by the media and telecoms specialist Enders Analysis calls into question the whole future of DAB. It concludes with a quote from Richard Wheatley, the chief executive of The Local Radio Company. He asks: "Could DAB be the next Betamax?"

Fast forward ...

July 2008: The RHS Flower Show gets under way at Tatton Park. Ditto the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford, the Cotswold Beer Festival and the Kent County Show. Other high-profile media events include the launch of services on the new 4 Digital DAB radio multiplex. Developments at Tatton this year include corporate hospitality packages from £139.