Channel 4 challenges BBC in digital radio

Channel 4 has confirmed its expansion into radio with the launch of Channel 4 Radio. Promising a fresh approach to radio programming, Channel 4 Radio has already begun commissioning a range of audio content, including radio extensions of flagship Channel 4 television shows such as Channel 4 News, Richard & Judy, Lost and Big Brother. And it has appointed former BBC Radio 2 controller Jim Moir to advise on its bid for a new national DAB multiplex, which is expected to be advertised by Ofcom at the end of 2006.

Registered users can already listen to streamed content or download audio files to MPS players and mobile phones via www.channel4radio.com. Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan said the launch of the service marked the next step of the broadcaster's strategy of offering "public service competition to the BBC across all major media".

He went on: "Commercial radio needs an injection of fresh thinking. We're confident that the strength of the talent we can bring to radio, the experience of the radio team we're building and our unique creative approach is a powerful combination that will ultimately enhance commercial radio in the UK."

Nathalie Schwarz, Channel 4's director of radio, once a strategy chief at Capital Radio, said: "Our ambition is to secure digital radio licences and launch 4-branded radio stations. We believe there is a gap for us in the market—a chance to bring Channel 4's spirit of innovation and risk-taking to radio, to extend the range of programming on offer, bring new advertisers to the medium and help strengthen the UK commercial radio sector, which is struggling to compete effectively with the BBC.

"We are not waiting to bid for new national digital licences, but pushing ahead with ambitious plans to create a major new stream of audio content for listeners online."

Programming highlights include:

Channel 4's new radio division is exploring other platforms for distributing its audio content, including digital television and DAB. Some of its programmes will also be broadcast on its majority-owned national digital station, Oneword.

Moir—widely credited with reviving Radio 2 by successfully implementing a strategy to attract a new audience without alienating its existing one—said: "I am delighted to be joining Channel 4 to work on its exciting radio plans. I believe commercial radio needs a new focus to enable it to truly compete with the BBC. Channel 4 has a unique opportunity to bring a freshness to radio content and offer listeners an exciting range of programmes which will lead them to new experiences and expand their current interests."

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