Gcap Media, Britain's largest radio conglomerate, is less than happy at Wednesday's announcement by UK broadcast media regulator Ofcom that it plans to license up to ten new national digital radio stations.

This is ten too many so far as Gcap is concerned. As the owner of four of the eight stations currently broadcasting on the sole national DAB (digital audio broadcast) multiplex, it does not welcome the prospect of increased competition. Especially in the light of its currently pallid share price [WAMN: 19-Oct-05].

Aware earlier this summer that a second multiplex was on the cards, Gcap chairman/ceo Ralph Bernard fired a warning salvo at the regulator.

"If Ofcom breaks the terms of our original understanding and grants additional national licences, our board will have no option but to consider a judicial review of the decision," he blustered.

Unfazed by that threat, Ofcom proposes to license a second commercial national DAB multiplex that will offer radio services catering for tastes and interests different to those provided by the existing facility.

The proposals are now out for consultation with interested parties, with a response deadline of November 16. Industry onlookers, meantime, believe that Bernard's threat of legal action is pufferfish talk.

Initiative London's head of radio Jonathan Barrowman opines: "GCap is very tight-lipped on this issue. However, in the light of the growing spirit of collaboration among commercial radio operators, I would find it surprising if GCap decided to restrict competition in the marketplace."

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff