DC Thomson Closes Pure Radio

Scottish station Pure Radio (unconnected to the similarly sounding digital radio manufacturer) has been closed by its owners DC Thomson. Scottish publisher DC Thomson, who launched the station is 2019, have stated the decision was due to low advertising revenues and audio figures.

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GB News Introduces Subtitles

New based opinion channel GB News has introduced subtitles for the first time.

Implemented around a month ago (but missed by the author until now), the system is based around automatic speech recognition alongside human intervention, to provide live subtitling with a claim accuracy of 98.5%.

The channel’s license from regulatory Ofcom does not yet mandate subtitles or other accessibility features, but the channel has brought these in voluntarily. A statement from CEO Angelos Frangopoulos states, “While we always planned subtitles, we brought them forward when viewers contacted us in their hundreds to request better accessibility to GB News.” (Source: Media Mole, January 2023, unverified).

GB News is available on most major TV platforms, including via satellite (Sky and Freesat), cable (Virgin Media), and terrestrial (Freeview – limited coverage). An additional audio only feed is available on DAB+ digital radio in most areas.

BBC Proposes Increased Hours for Cymru 2

The BBC has unveiled plans to extend part-time radio service BBC Radio Cymru 2, from 15 hours a week to 60 hours a week. BBC Radio Cymru 2 is one of three radio stations that the BBC operates in Wales; English language service BBC Radio Wales, and Welsh language BBC Radio Cymru and it’s ‘2’ counterpart.

Cymru 2 was first launched in 2018, on DAB radio, online, and digital TV platforms. The part time service typically broadcasts from 7am to 9am each morning providing a music based alternative to the speech content normally found on BBC Radio Cymru.

The move, however, is at odds with other BBC policy, which has seen successive cuts to BBC local and nations radio, particularly to local radio in England. Largely disguised under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, BBC local radio in England has seen increased programme sharing, standardised schedules, reduced travel bulletins, and a reduction in news based speech content.

Some campaigners online, particularly on social media, have also been quick to point out that the BBC is yet to provide any form of bespoke content for the Isle of Man, either on TV or radio, despite the Channel Islands having both local radio stations and local TV news on BBC One.

The intention is to implement the changes from the autumn, subject to regulatory approval.

A New Hybrid Future for Talk Radio

Talk Radio, the speech based station from Wireless Group (owned by News UK), will become a hybrid TV and radio channel with the launch of Talk TV. The development of the channel has been forming discussion for sometime, but there are now enough confirmed details for a full news article.

Talk Radio have been streaming an online TV channel Talk Radio TV for some time now. Largely, this comprises the same audio feed as the station on DAB+, with the addition of a studio video feed, and a scrolling news ticker. Daytime content will be carried over to the new hybrid service largely unchanged.

Screenshot of Talk TV website, 21/04/2022.

In the evenings, new primetime shows will be added, hosted by well known names such a Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan. The audio for these will be rebroadcast on Talk Radio, but will be broadcast from new TV studios.

A website has now appeared online, but helpfully this only confirms the start date of the new Talk TV service, which is the 25th April (2022). Channel availability confirmed so far includes terrestrial Freeview on number 237, satellite platforms Freesat (217) and Sky (526), and cable platform Virgin Media (number not yet confirmed).

NB. All channel numbers confirmed are based on details obtained from platform websites or direct observations.

More DAB Radio Stations Close

Perhaps a sign of a worsening economy, or a realisation that there is excessive duplication, several more DAB (and/or DAB+) stations have now closed.

On the Surrey local DAB multiplex, the service Full FM Radio has been removed. The Polish language service does continue online.

Full closure has occurred for All Oldies Radio, which was broadcast on the Herts Beds Bucks local multiplex. This station was on oldies music led service, that initially broadcast online before restructuring as a local service aimed at the Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Buckinghamshire it broadcast to on DAB.

In Scotland, the three Scottish Sun branded services Sun 80s, Sun Chilled, and Sun Hits have now closed. These three services were largely fillers utilising a large amount of vacant capacity on the Central Scotland regional DAB multiplex, with Sun Chilled initially launching as Sun Greatest Hits (prior to the Bauer Media owned station of a similar name).

The three Scottish Sun services were largely automated, but did feature comprehensive travel bulletins, and some news bulletins, though latterly the news bulletins appeared to be more of a promotion of articles on the Scottish Sun website. Despite this, all three stations broadcast in high quality 128 kbps joint stereo DAB, something of a rarity for commercial radio.

With the three Union Jack stations having already closed, it seems that more DAB stations are likely to follow, despite the new small-scale, hyperlocal DAB multiplexes starting to launch.

DAB Changes

As expected, and widely promoted to listeners ahead of the change, UCB (United Christian Broadcasters) have switched to using DAB+ for both UCB1 and UCB2. Both stations are now on the D1 National DAB multiplex, and are using 24 kbps DAB+ stereo (from 56 kbps Mono LSF for UCB1, and 64 kbps Mono LSF for UCB2).

As part of this, UCB2 moved from the SDL National multiplex, and has now gained wider coverage by being on the D1 National multiplex. However, this is at the expense of sound quality, and some DAB radios will not be able to receive both stations at all, due to not being DAB+ compatible. UCB2 was removed from the SDL National multiplex without any recorded re-tune loop advising listeners to retune.

With UCB relinquishing space on the SDL National multiplex, and reducing overall bitrates on D1 National by a further 8 kbps, this represents a significant cost saving for UCB. Also on the SDL National multiplex, Sunrise Radio (national/London station) have also reduced their bit rate, dropping from 64 kbps to 56 kbps (retaining mono LSF).

In a separate move that has also taken place relatively recently, the three national Jack Media services; Union Jack, Union Jack Dance, and Union Jack Rock, has left the SDL National DAB multiplex. All three services remain available online, and the local Oxfordshire services remain unaffected. The reason for this change is yet to be confirmed.

Closure of Great Yorkshire Radio

Digital station Great Yorkshire Radio appears to have quietly closed at the start of January this year (2022).

The digital only station was broadcast on the Lincolnshire DAB multiplex using DAB+ and overspill reception to target parts of East and South Yorkshire. The station had previously broadcast on the North Yorkshire multiplex. The station had close links with community FM station Driffield FM, and carried similar branding and jingles.

The station was removed from the Lincolnshire DAB multiplex on the 4th January, but may have stopped regular broadcasts earlier than this. Closure doesn’t appear to have been publicised, with the Twitter feed making no mention of closure, having last been updated in December 2021. Facebook and Instagram pages appear to have been taken offline.

Curiously, although almost all content has been removed, the website remains online. At the time of typing, this is currently only displaying the station logo. This may be a sign of further developments.

GB News Radio Launching in January

GB News, the recently launched news based opinion channel, has now confirmed its plans for a radio based version of the channel.

The broadcaster has announced that GB News Radio will launch on the 4th January 2022, coinciding with a new presenter line up for the brreakfast show. GB News Radio will largely be an audio only simulcast of the TV station, albeit with advertising better suited to the audio only nature of the radio service.

Ahead of the launch, GB News Radio has been added to the D1 National DAB multiplex, and is broadcasting in mono at 24 kbps DAB+. The station is using capacity vacated by UCB1 reducing its bitrate, and capacity made available by the cessation of traffic info data services previously carried for satnav systems.

At present GB News Radio is broadcasting test transmissions consisting of a promotional loop. Though not directly observed, reports suggest that this makes no mention of a launch date. Reports also suggest that trials of different adverts have been conducted using the online stream of the channel, presumably testing the ability to have different adverts on different platforms ahead of the launch of the radio service.

GB News is currently available on free-to-air satellite (including Freesat and Sky), Virgin Media (cable), and the UK terrestrial platform Freeview. The addition of the DAB+ radio service will further widen the reach of GB News, improving access to GB News when on the move.