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).

Mono Future for London DAB

Recent changes to DAB in London have seen two Bauer Media operated stations lose stereo DAB transmissions.

Ahead of the 105.8 FM frequency switching to Greatest Hits Radio, Absolute Radio has now been removed from the London 1 DAB multiplex. The station also broadcasts on the D1 National multiplex, but unlike the former 128 kbps joint stereo slot on London 1, this is mono only.

Hits Radio (London) has also switched to 80 kbps mono from 128 kbps joint stereo, this time on the London 2 multiplex. This move has allowed Absolute Radio 70s to return to the London 2 multiplex, also using 80 kbps mono DAB. Absolute Radio 70s had previously vacated the multiplex to make way from Hits Radio to join.

Lastly, Absolute Radio 10s is now available on the London 1 multiplex, but uses DAB+ at 48 kbps stereo. Older radios may not receive this service, but listeners should get reasonable sound quality from a higher than usualy DAB+ standard bit rate. However, the new service largerly falls into the saturated pop music market.

In general, these changes mean poorer sound quality, and in the case of Absolute Radio, poorer access to services. This is partially offset by the additional services, but these bring nothing new to the saturated pop music market, and it could be argued that the changes mean a poorer DAB service for residents of the London area.

Love Sport Fails to Score

Love Sport, the DAB station which broadcast initially to London, has now left the SDL National DAB multiplex. The station had broadcast on both MW and DAB in London, before expanding nationally using DAB+ with some of the capacity vacated by Panjab Radio.

The closure of the station was blamed on reduced advertising revenue due to Covid-19. However, with only 762 page likes on the station’s Facebook page, it would appear the station has struggled to compete with Talk Sport and sports coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live.

For much of 2019, the station was mothballed, broadcasting rock music and a recorded message from the station founder. The station ceased its separate DAB broadcast in London earlier in the year, before handing over the North London MW frequency to Asian FX.

DAB Expansion for Star Radio

Local FM station Star Radio, which broadcasts on 100.7 FM to Cambridgeshire, has expanded its presence on DAB. The station, which has an easy listening format, is now available on the Cambridge local DAB multiplex as Star Radio (Cam), and the Peterborough multiplex as Star Radio (PB).

Both of the new instances are mono, at 80 kbps using ‘original flavour’ normal DAB. As both instances are identified separately, there is scope to vary the output for local audiences, allowing for bespoke news bulletins and targeted advertising.

Additionally, the existing instance on the trial Cambridge multiplex has converted to DAB+. This means that the 128 kbps available space can now deliver higher quality sound, but older radios may only be able to access the mono version on the main Cambridge multiplex. The conversion may be a test/trial.

DAB+ for Talk Sport 2 and Talk Radio

Both Talk Sport 2 and Talk Radio have switched to DAB+ transmission on the SDL National DAB multiplex. Talk Sport 2 has made a direct switch, meaning some older DAB radios can no longer receive the service

Talk Radio has begun a period of dual transmission, with the new DAB+ service identified by a ‘+’ at the end of the station name. Dual transmission ends on 26th June, allowing some time for listeners to upgrade their radios if required.

Both stations have switched from 64 kbps mono, to 32 kbps DAB+ stereo. The use of stereo is unlikely to be of benefit as both services are talk based, but the changes free up additional space for new services, including the forthcoming Times Radio. Unlike some other DAB+ services which suffer from poor sound quality, Talk Radio and Talk Sport 2 do not appear to be affected in the same way.

Talk Radio, Talk Sport 2, and Times Radio are all operated by News UK’s subsidiary Wireless Group, who alos hold a 30% share in the SDL National DAB multiplex. SDL stands for Sound Digital Limited.

Viamux Offer Free Small Scale DAB Workshops

Viamux have partnered with industry website Radio Today to offer free regional small scale DAB workshops.

The sessions will offer guidance on how to set up and run a DAB+ multiplex, as well as advice on writing license applications, funding equipment, and finding partner stations.

A live demonstration of software-defined radio also forms part of the sessions.

The first workshops are; Belfast on Saturday 14th September, Edinburgh on Saturday 28th September, and
Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Saturday 5th October​

For more details, visit the Viamux website at www.viamux.com/workshops.html

Global Radio Fill DAB Capacity

The dominant monopoly that is Global Radio has expanded its presence on DAB. National duplicates of Capital, Heart and Smooth have been added to the Lincolnshire DAB multiplex and the Hereford and Worcester DAB multiplex.

These services are already available on the D1 national multiplex. Capital UK has a national 80 kbps mono slot, as does Smooth (labelled as Smooth Extra), and Heart has a 32kbps low quality stereo DAB+ slot (labelled as Heart Extra).

The new versions are all in stereo ‘original version’ DAB, with a bit rate of 112kbps, offering slightly better sound quality. These services are exactly the same as the national versions, and do not widen the choice of services available.