Like Acquires Glasgow Small-Scale License

Like Media Group, under the Like DAB banner, have acquired the license for the Glasgow small-scale DAB multiplex from Nation Broadcasting. Nation Broadcasting latterly operated the trial small-scale multiplex in Glasgow, having acquired the multiplex alongside Dumbarton area station Your Radio in 2018, from Brave Broadcasting.

Nation Broadcasting subsequently won the permanent small-scale multiplex license from Ofcom earlier this year, with the license having been uncontested. Recent developments saw the trial multiplex close to focus efforts on the permanent multiplex. The previous news article on the trial multiplex closure can be read here.

Meanwhile, Your Radio itself has now effectively closed, with the station having simulcast Nation Radio Scotland since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This move looks set to be permanent, although no official confirmation of this has been given, beyond obtaining the necessary license variations from regulator Ofcom.

Like DAB won the Isles of Scilly small-scale multiplex license, and are preparing to launch both multiplexes in 2022. Like appear to be re-focusing their efforts on small-scale DAB, having removed their main station, Like Radio, from the Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester, and Somerset local DAB multiplexes.

Like Media Group previously owned Imagine Radio in the Greater Manchester and Peak District area, sold to and subsequently closed by Bauer Media. Like Media also for a time operated the Durham and Darlington FM licenses, using the brand names Durham Radio and Alpha Radio. These have also been sold, and now broadcast Sun FM, a station owned by Nation Broadcasting and based in Sunderland.

Nation Broadcasting appear to be taking the opposite approach, instead concentrating on expand their larger regional FM services, alongside shareholdings in larger local DAB multiplexes. Nation Broadcasting have recently expanded their DAB portfolio, with the recently launched Channel Islands DAB multiplex, and the soon to launch Morecambe Bay DAB multiplex.

BBC Radio Cumbria To Go DAB+

BBC Radio Cumbria is joining digital radio for the first time next Wednesday, with the station joining the new Carlisle/North Cumbria and Morecambe Bay DAB multiplexes. Both multiplexes are expected to launch on 1st December (2021), and are operated by Bauer Media and Muxco Cumbria respectively.

However, unlike most BBC stations, and following in the footsteps of BBC Radio Guernsey and BBC Radio Jersey, the station will use the newer DAB+ format. Reasons for this are unknown, as the BBC have 128 kbps of space reserved on each multiplex, enough to broadcast in joint stereo using normal DAB.

There is some speculation suggesting that the BBC may use the Morecambe Bay multiplex to improve coverage of BBC Radio Lancashire to the north of that station’s coverage area. Speculation also suggests that the BBC may use spillover from the North Cumbria multiplex to broadcast BBC Radio Scotland on digital radio to parts of south west Scotland, but this appears less likely.

In any case, the use of DAB+ will mean that some listeners with incompatible DAB radios will be unable to access BBC Radio Cumbria on digital radio.

Launch Date Confirmed for Morecambe Bay DAB Multiplex

Muxco Cumbria have confirmed that the forthcoming DAB multiplex for the Morecambe Bay area will launch on the 1st December.

The multiplex, which will also cover South Cumbria, will launch with a variety of national, local/regional, and community services. Included from launch will be BBC Radio Cumbria, community services Cando FM and Bay Trust Radio, and national services Capital, Heart, and Smooth Radio.

The multiplex coverage area will broadly mirror existing FM services, and will use a mixture of conventional DAB and the newer DAB+ format. Some older DAB radios will not be able to receive all stations.

Muxco Cumbria is a joint venture between Nation Broadcasting (owners of Nation Radio), and local DAB multiplex operator Muxco.

Trial Glasgow Small Scale Multiplex to Close

The current trial small scale DAB multiplex in Glasgow is to close on Friday (8th October 2021), as the equipment used by the multiplex has reached the end of its life.

Nation Broadcasting, who operate the multiplex have said it would cost significant investments of time and money to continue the multiplex. Instead, they have opted to focus efforts on building the replacement permanent small scale multiplex, to which they were awarded the license for earlier this year.

As the permanent multiplex is not expected to launch until mid-2022, there will be a significant period in which some services will be unable to broadcast to Glasgow. Off the affected services, only Nation Radio Scotland (also owned by Nation Broadcasting) has moved to a different multiplex, in this case the Central Scotland regional multiplex.

Nation Radio Scotland has dropped bitrate as part of the move, from 112 kbps joint stereo to 80 kbps mono, but has gained wider coverage and is now available across the whole of the central belt of Scotland. Nation Radio Scotland is also available on 96.3 FM in the Glasgow area, and service does still appear to be targeted to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Bilsdale Transmitter: Alternative Arrangements for Radio

I’ve held of publishing further updates on the Bilsdale transmitter disruption due to the rapidly changing situation, but as things have started to settle, I’m now confident in being able to provide summaries on the alternative arrangements that are being put in place. This post focuses on digital and analogue radio services, and where possible refers to information published on the Arqiva website (although supplementary information from other sources may be used).

Most radio services have been relocated to the Eston Nab transmitter, which has been upgraded using a temporary mast. Joining Smooth Radio which permanently broadcasts from this site, are national stations Capital and Heart, local BBC station BBC Radio Tees, and network station TFM. These are broadcasting on their normal frequencies, so there is no requirement to retune your radio. All stations have RDS (station name display) output, and should be available to most places within their normal coverage area.

For DAB, the D1 National and SDL National multiplexes have also been added to the Eston Nab transmitter. As these multiplexes operate on a single frequency network, there is no need to retune. These join the BBC National and Teeside local DAB multiplexes which permanently broadcast from this transmitter.

A further article on TV arrangements will follow.

Bilsdale Transmitter: Services Affected

The Bilsdale West Moor transmitter broadcasts terrestrial TV, FM radio, and DAB digital radio to the North Yorkshire and Teesside areas. These services are impacted in slightly different ways, but all are facing major disruption.

The transmitter is a main terrestrial TV (Freeview) transmitter, broadcasting all public service broadcaster (PSB) and commercial multiplexes, including temporary multiplex COM7, and the local TV multiplex. The transmitter also provides the provides the feeds for the PSB relays in the area (excluding Scarborough). As a result, all Freeview services from these transmitters are off-air. If you can, repositioning your aerial towards Pontop Pike to North, or Emley Moor to the south may be an alternative.

For FM, the Teesside frequencies of national stations Capital, Classic FM, Heart, and BBC Radio 1 to 4 are off-air. Additionally, local station BBC Radio Tees and network station TFM are also off-air. For most national services, signal from another transmitter should be available, although as Classic FM uses a network of fewer but larger transmitters, this may not always be the case.

Local FM services are facing more disruption. The BBC Radio Tees relay at Whitby should still be operating, but otherwise there is no FM service for BBC Radio Tees. TFM has no relays, and is off-air completely on FM. In the north of the area, Capital and Heart may be available on frequencies from Pontop Pike, but are otherwise off-air completely.

DAB is likely to be the least impacted by the disruption, as the Bilsdale transmitter is one of a number within the networks. National multiplexes BBC National, D1 National, and SDL National are broadcast alongside the Teesside and North Yorkshire local multiplexes. For BBC and D1 national services, other transmitters in the area should provide some service. SDL National listeners will face more disruption, as this network uses fewer but larger transmitters.

Local DAB should still be available to most listeners, with listeners in northern fringe of the North Yorkshire multiplex most like to be affected. For all multiplexes, DAB transmitters broadcast using single frequency networks. As all transmitters use the same frequencies, your radio should automatically pick up the signals from other transmitters if signal is available.

This list is not comprehensive, and there may be other alternatives for receiving TV and radio, such as cable, satellite, and online.

Major Disruption Caused By Transmitter Fire

The Bilsdale West Moor television and radio transmitter is currently off-air due to a fire, causing major disruption to some services in North East England.

The transmitter broadcasts terrestrial TV (Freeview), FM and DAB radio to around 1 million people in the Teesside and North Yorkshire. A further post will follow explaining how these services are disrupted in more detail.

It is understood that problems were caused by a lightning strike, but it does not appear that this is the direct cause of the fire. The fire was first reported by an engineer working at the transmitter site, with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service sending multiple engines to site.

Arqiva, the operator of the transmitter, are currently working on a temporary transmitter to restore services, but this will take time to complete. The temporary transmitter may need to operate at a lower power output, meaning a reduced coverage area.

Pure Radio Expands

Pure Radio has expanded for a second time to the Aberdeenshire area, by launching on the Aberdeen DAB multiplex on Friday (6th August 2021).

The station has a 80 kbps mono ‘normal’ DAB slot. Although not in stereo, unlike stations using the newer DAB+ format, all DAB radios should receive the service.

The station first launched on the Central Scotland DAB multiplex back in 2019. The first round of expansion saw the service reach Dundee and Perth on FM, replacing local station Wave FM in July 2020.

The station has a largely pop/adult contemporary format, and has no association with the radio manufacturer with a similar name. The station is owned by DC Thompson Media, who also own local stations Kingdom FM in Fife, and Original 106 in Aberdeenshire.

5Live Formula 1

The BBC has launched a pop-up channel offering live coverage of the British Grand Prix, the UK round of the Formula 1 (motor racing) World Championship being held at Silverstone.

Broadcasting using 64 kbps mono DAB, the station is available on the BBC National DAB multiplex, until sometime just after the conclusion of the racing action. Re-tune your radio, and scroll until you find ‘BBC R5LFormula 1’ in the stations list.

United DJs Closes

Digital radio station United DJs has now closed down, having struggled to become financially viable. The service had been available online, and in a handful of locations on DAB (using the newer DAB+ format).

Some DAB changes have occurred as a result. On the Portsmouth small scale DAB multiplex, the removal of the station has allowed Passion Radio and 80s Rhythm to increase their bit rates to 56 kbps, and Sussex local station V2 Radio to increase its bit rate to 48 kbps.

All three of these stations use the DAB+ format in stereo, and although the closure of United DJs slightly reduces choice, listeners gain better sound quality from some of the services.

The Portsmouth small scale DAB multiplex is currently full, and bit rate increases or new services can only take place when a station leaves the multiplex.

Update – 25th May: Goldmine has also left the Portsmouth small scale DAB multiplex, although does continue to broadcast elsewhere. 80s Rhythm and Passion Radio have further improved sound quality, and are now broadcasting at 64 kbps DAB+ (at the time of writing).