A consortium led by Channel 4, the U.K. media group that operates one of the country's leading commercial TV networks, has won the license for the country's second national commercial digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio multiplex.

Media regulator Ofcom handed the 12-year license to 4 Digital Group, whose majority shareholder is the company's Channel 4 Radio unit. The other shareholders include media groups and radio operators such as EMAP Radio, BSkyB, UTV Radio, Chrysalis Radio, Carphone Warehouse and UBC Media.

With the license, 4 Digital Group plans to launch ten new digital national radio stations from July 2008.

The first three, which will carry the "4" brand, are: E4 Radio (youth-oriented music and comedy); Channel 4 Radio (targeted at 15 to 29-year-olds and focusing on newly discovered acts); and Pure4 (featuring music by veteran acts, culture and entertainment).

Future plans include another seven new stations. The digital signals will also enable 4 Digital Group to offer podcasts for downloadable pre-recorded programs.

The presence of Carphone Warehouse, Europe's biggest mobile-phone retailer, among the shareholders is expected to lead to radio services accessible by mobile phones.

A reported £30 million ($60.3 million) will be spent on marketing campaigns to educate consumers about DAB radio and to promote the individual new stations.

"Winning this license...gives us a platform to extend our innovative and diverse public service contribution into radio, challenging the BBC's (which launched its DAB services in 2002) dominance of the medium," said Andy Duncan, Channel 4's CEO, in a statement.

4 Digital Group beat rival National Grid Wireless to the new license.

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