FT and NME partner C4 in DAB radio multiplex bid

Channel 4 Radio has announced plans to work with the Financial Times and IPC Media’s NME in its bid for the new national DAB multiplex.

If its bid is successful, Channel 4 Radio plans to launch a number of its own 4-branded national stations from 2008 alongside new stations and other services.

The new DAB multiplex, advertised by Ofcom last year, has capacity for a number of national digital radio services as well as a variety of data and multimedia services.

The only other confirmed runner is the National Grid Wireless (NGW) – whose bid is being co-ordinated by former Capital Radio chief David Mansfield.

Channel 4 has said it wants to reinvigorate commercial radio, drawing in a younger and more diverse audience, and provide a genuine public service alternative to the BBC.

C4 director of radio Natalie Schwarz reaffirmed that part of this would be “an alternative fresh news and current affairs programme in the morning” to take on the Today programme on BBC.

Schwarz said she could not talk specifically about how it might act as an alternative to the BBC until the bid is made on 28 March, but that the radio bid would reflect the style of Channel 4.

She said: “If you look at Channel 4 television, it has a distinctive feel to it, its editorial policy is distinctive, it has a commitment to a diversity of voices – a real contemporary feel.”

Content partners include UTV, SMG and Emap as well as international company, CanWest MediaWorks.

The consortium has also agreed to work with a number of print partners who are new to radio in the UK. These include the Financial Times and Penguin Publishing, both owned by Pearson plc and IPC music weekly, NME.

On these new partnerships, Schwarz said: “If your starting premise is that the best way to drive DAB take-up is to provide compelling content that can reach a wide range of people, then what great partners to be working with. The NME, with its brand heritage of breaking new music, has a huge appeal to a certain demographic.

“As does the Financial Times – if you think about the commercial radio sector and where is the highbrow business news content coming from. I think that would be a great addition.”

James Montgomery, editor of FT.com, said: “TChannel 4 is a complementary brand and a recognised source of quality news. This agreement will enable the FT to reach new audiences and to distribute widely our growing offer in audio and other new media.”

An IPC spokesman said: “Channel 4 Radio is an exciting proposition and we’ll be looking at ways in which NME might work with the platform going forward.

Clearly, NME is already a brand with multi-channel credentials and our content lends itself perfectly to the audio format.”

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