Government to help commercial and community radio to go digital

More local commercial and community radio stations will be able to broadcast on digital platforms across the UK under new plans announced by Digital Minister Matt Hancock today.

There are currently around 400 commercial and community radio stations that are limited to broadcasting to small geographic areas on analogue (FM/MW) frequencies under outdated regulations. The new approach means these stations will be able to reach a wider audience to the areas they serve on digital radio. 

Over 60 per cent of households now own a digital radio and the changes are designed to encourage a widespread rollout of small radio networks, within county areas, on a Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) platform. 

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said:

“Local radio is much loved and vitally important as a source of objective and in touch local news. As more power is devolved locally, and as local newspapers struggle, local radio’s role in the community is becoming more and more critical. So we are working hard with stations and listeners to make sure the rules are up to date, and give local radio the chance to use new digital technology to reach audiences, new and longstanding, old and young. Today’s publication marks another step forward in that work. I’m very grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to make this progress.”

 Ford Ennals, Chief Executive Officer at Digital Radio UK said:

 “We welcome publication of the DCMS consultation on small-scale DAB which is an important enabling technology that can help hundreds of local commercial and community stations broadcast on DAB for the first time. This consultation is particularly important as there is much work still to be done to fully consider the best use of the limited spectrum available and how small-scale can work most efficiently alongside existing local and national DAB multiplexes to help maximise the benefits to listeners.”

The Government will now consult on the best approach for a licensing process that is appropriate for small scale DAB radio multiplexes, with the aim of having a new licensing arrangements in place by the end of the year. The consultation will run for 8 weeks, and closes on the 28 February 2018.

Ash Elford, Digital Development Manager, Angel Radio, who runs the small-scale multiplex in Portsmouth, said: 

“After over two years of successfully broadcasting local DAB services to Portsmouth, it is good to see a process for the full-time licencing of many more local multiplexes for cities and towns starting to take shape. We hope that the successes we have achieved so far with technical innovations and broadcasting smaller commercial, niche and community services can be replicated across the UK as soon as possible.”

David Duffy, Director, Niocast Digital, who run Manchester’s small-scale DAB multiplex, said:

“Niocast welcomes the small-scale DAB consultation as an important next step in the development of digital radio across the UK.”

Dean Kavanagh of Switch Radio and Multiplex Manager, BrumDAB SSDAB in Birmingham, said: 

“We welcome the news of the upcoming DCMS Small Scale DAB consultation. As we have seen already, this additional layer of DAB has brought with it significant benefits for listeners – unlocking a world of new and exciting programming that otherwise would not have had a home. This consultation represents the first steps towards providing this exciting platform for all.”

Changes to our line-up

In the new year, there will be some changes to our DAB line-up. On 31st December, say goodbye to JACK, JACK 2 and JACK 3. The owners of the JACK stations have decided to concentrate their energy on their national station Union JACK, and are launching a new second national station next month. We wish them well with their ventures. One of the advantages for broadcasters who wish to broadcast on our Portsmouth DAB digital radio multiplex is that we are more flexible than traditional transmission providers.

Later in January 2018, we will launch Metal Meyhem Radio. This will be the first time a (legal) heavy metal format radio station has been broadcast on terrestrial radio in the UK. Based in the South Coast, the station will be perfect for fans of hard rock and metal, and will showcase the best local acts.

Two more stations will also launch in January 2018, but for now details are under wraps. When the stations are ready to go public, we’ll let you know.

Finally, fans of 100% Dragon Hits may have noticed a recent improvement in sound quality as a result of a technical change to the way the station is broadcast.

 

 

 

Engineering work tonight

Please be aware there will be engineering work taking place this evening (15th November). There will be an outage of up to one hour between 22:00 and 01:00. During the outage, services will be silent. We’ll try and keep the outage to a minimum.

Engineering work this week

Please be aware that there is some engineering work to the electricity supply at our transmitter site on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th November. The work will take place between 09:00 and 16:00 both days.
On Thursday, it is unlikely that there will be any outages at all. If there does need to be any interruption to our supply, it will kept to an absolute minimum.
On Friday, we will need breaks in transmissions, possibly on several occasions. We will try and keep these outages to an absolute minimum.
We apologise in advance for spoiling your listening!

 

Broadcasters: Think DAB, think Solent Wireless!

Over the last two years, Solent Wireless has established itself as the leader in small scale DAB digital radio. We have been leading the way in the UK, proving that DAB broadcasting doesn’t have to be difficult. From being awarded our licence by Ofcom to fully launching we took just 69 days, and that included 2 weeks of testing!

Our Portsmouth local DAB multiplex has been broadcasting DAB+ for longer than anyone else in the UK. All of our services are in stereo, and most have DAB slideshow.

As we reflect on operating a multiplex of 21 services of differing genres from a mixture of community and commercial broadcasters, we concentrate on our next steps. Though the details are yet to be finalised, 2018 looks likely to be the year that more ultra local DAB multiplexes, such as ours in Portsmouth, are licensed.

Solent Wireless is a partnership between Angel Radio and Commtronix. We are able to provide consultancy for those interested in learning from our success in Portsmouth. Be it from existing DAB multiplex operators, or from potential DAB multiplex operators. We can help with the technical, licensing, day to day operations and commercial aspects of DAB broadcasting. We have already worked with existing DAB multiplex operators to provide technical help and capacity brokerage.

We encourage broadcasters that want to join the ultra local DAB revolution to think about their place in a digital future. Contact us today to find out how we can help you!

info @ solentwireless . com

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Planned engineering work

Please be aware that from 09:00 to 13:00 this Friday, we’ll be undertaking engineering work on our transmitter. During this time there will be several outages to our services, of around 60 seconds. We’ll try our very best to keep any downtime to a minimum.

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Today is our 2nd Anniversary!

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Today, 19th August, the Portsmouth DAB multiplex celebrates its second anniversary of broadcasting. The multiplex is part of an Ofcom/DCMS trial to test the viability of low cost DAB transmission on a very local basis. In Portsmouth, the multiplex has blossomed from launching with just six services, to broadcasting twenty one services to the area covering a wide range of genres. 

 
One of the original launch services is The Flash, a digital and internet community radio station based in Havant. Station Manager Martin Kirby said:
 
“I cannot believe that two very successful years have gone by since we started broadcasting on the Portsmouth DAB multiplex. The DAB platform has given our volunteer based station a real boost and new local listeners are discovering us on DAB all the time. We are very proud to be a part of this experiment locally, and hope to be on air in Portsmouth for many years to come”.
 
The services added to the Portsmouth DAB multiplex since launch cover a wide variety of formats from rock, pop, country, oldies, chart hits, easy listening and more. One of the new formats is a local ethnic station Awaaz FM. The first local DAB station for the ethnic communities of South Hampshire. Ali Beg, the project manager of Awaaz FM said:
 
“Thanks to the Portsmouth DAB multiplex, Awaaz FM is now the biggest ethnic radio station in this area. This was never possible before due to the high costs of traditional DAB multiplexes. The small scale DAB multiplex in Portsmouth clearly shows how community focused the new choice of services can be, and how effectively it reaches out to all members of the community and not just the traditional stations that we are used to, giving the area a much needed variety of stations to choose from!”
 
The Portsmouth DAB multiplex has been pushing the boundaries of DAB broadcasting. It launched within two months of being granted a licence from Ofcom, and has been broadcasting DAB+ services in the UK longer than any other operator. One of the longest operating DAB+ services is BFBS Portsmouth. Nick Beer, the Chief Development Officer at SSVC, the organisation behind BFBS, said:

 
“Working with Angel Radio on the Portsmouth DAB multiplex has allowed us to launch a trial radio service for our significant Royal Navy audience in the city. It also allowed us to trial DAB+ with minimum risk. Something which would otherwise have involved a lot more effort and expense launched very swiftly. Ash and the guys have been great partners in this and we look forward to working with them on an enduring and expanding basis.”
 
The majority of services broadcast DAB slideshow and are broadcast in stereo too. The multiplex is run by local community station Angel Radio with engineering support provided by local company Commtronix.
 
Ash Elford, Angel Radio’s Digital Development Manager said:
 
“It’s been an amazing two years for us in Portsmouth. We’ve demonstrated that we can just get on with things. Here in Portsmouth, we’re improving the listener experience with a broad range of formats, and many of the services feature local content too. And who says stereo is dead – 20 of our 21 services are in stereo! We’ve embraced DAB+ and DAB slideshow in a way that traditional multiplexes haven’t. I’d like to thank our service providers for working with us to enhance listener choice in the Portsmouth area. We’ve demonstrated that DAB doesn’t have to be difficult.”
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