Digital radio plans unveiled

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Britain will receive over 30 digital radio services by 1999 after the Radio Authority confirmed yesterday that it will start advertising 20 digital commercial licences next spring.

In a letter to the Commercial Radio Companies Association, the authority has promised a "fast-burn" approach to bring dozens of new digital services on-air at the same time. Home-owners will need digital radios to receive the stations which will also carry small "TV" screens for text and data services - so far only prototype digital receivers are available but commercially priced digital radios will be launched later this year. Britain's three national commercial stations, Virgin, Talk and Classic FM, will all be offered guaranteed places on the radio multiplex. The BBC has been digitally broadcasting its five national stations and dedicated parliament and sports services since 1995.