Digital radio - known as DAB - will mean compact disc-quality sound coming out of radios which never crackle or lose their signal. It can broadcast text, graphics, pictures and information services and can talk to personal and laptop computers.
The Radio Authority advertised a national commercial digital licence yesterday that will give the winner 12 years to establish, in competition with the BBC, digital radio in the United Kingdom.
Chris Evans' Ginger Media Group has joined forces in the first bid to be announced with GWR, owners of Classic FM and a network of local radio stations. The bid was in the name of a new consortium, Digital One. Richard Branson, a part-owner of Ginger Media Group, is expected to get involved in the bid.
Other radio groups, such as London's Capital and EMAP, are also expected to bid for the licence by the June deadline. The Radio Authority wants whoever wins to encourage people to buy digital radios - currently retailing for more than pounds 1,000 -so they can be mass produced and the price will fall.