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C4 abandons DAB

Farewell, consortium

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Cash-strapped TV broadcaster Channel 4 has confirmed it will completely withdraw from the eponymous DAB radio consortium, Digital 4. The move will save £10m, executives said today.

The Channel 4-led venture was awarded the second national digital multiplex in July last year, and planned to launch ten radio services including a "BBC lite". It accompanied its bid with an inspirational rallying call. (Imagine Olivier playing Henry V...)

4 Digital Group is a partnership which we believe can secure the future of commercial digital radio, putting radio back where it belongs – at the heart of a multi-media, multi-platform UK.

Stirring stuff.

Today, the remaining D4 partners, including Bauer (formerly EMAP), UBC, and Sky are left licking their chops. Talks were held last week in an attempt to squeeze a subset of services onto the first commercial multiplex to save money, but these failed to produce an agreement.

As Enders' Grant Goddard explained this week, the cost of radio broadcasting has increased tenfold thanks to the DAB disaster. Channel 4 chief Andy Duncan said the DAB expenditure couldn't be justified, because "we are having to cut so deeply across all parts of the organisation".

But that's not completely true.

Despite savage cuts to program budgets, Channel 4 is chucking £50m at Web 2.0 projects, hiring self-facilitating new media node Tom Loosemore from OFCOM. While there he'd been hard-selling the Nathan Barley Quango, the Public Service Publisher. Loosemore has vowed to "reinvent Public Service Media for the 21st century" - and £50m should help buy a spanking new Macbook, at least.

So really, OFCOM is simply transferring cash from one New Media failure to another. And then wondering why its core TV revenues fall.

Genius. ®

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