The Sound Digital national DAB multiplex has completed its expansion programme, adding a further 19 transmitters, and around 4 million potential new listeners. The multiplex now has additional coverage in East Anglia, the South West, Kent, South Wales and North East Scotland, with a total coverage area of 83% of the UK.
The multiplex is jointly owned by Arqiva, Bauer, and Wireless Group, and carries 19 digital stations including Talk Radio, Union Jack, and Virgin Radio. Some stations use the newer DAB+ format.
Listeners in the new coverage are will be able to receive the stations after re-scanning their DAB radio.
Bauer have opted to cease broadcasting the syndicated Big Top 40 Chart show when the contract expires in December. A ‘This Weeks Biggest Hits’ show will be networked from Hits Radio instead. This will likely fuel rumours that Bauer will ditch local station names.
Global Radio, who produce the Big Top 40, have now chosen to withdraw the programme from syndication, affecting smaller stations operated by UKRD, Wireless Group, Quidem, Lincs FM Group and Nation Broadcasting.
From the new year, the Big Top 40 will only be heard on the Capital and Heart networks.
An explicit version of Kendrick Lamar’s song all the stars, found its way into Heart Extra’s automated playlist. The song was played 7 times during automated hours between 9am and 4pm.
The offending track has since been removed from the system, but only after a complaint from a listener. Ofcom have also found Heart Extra in breach of two broadcasting rules.
Heart Extra broadcasts national on DAB, and is owned by dominant broadcaster Global Radio.
Chris Evans is leaving BBC Radio later this year to take over hosting Virgin Radio’s breakfast show. The current hosts, Sam and Amy, are staying at the station but are moving to present a new overnight show. This means, that for the first time, Virgin Radio (in its current form) will broadcast for 24 hours a day.
Chris Evans was a presenter on the previous incarnation of Virgin Radio (now Absolute Radio), and for a time also owned the station.
His replacement on the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show is not yet known.
Here is the news from the past week:
45 Radio has joined the Norwich trial small scale DAB multiplex,using DAB+ at 48 kbps. This service is aimed at listeners aged 45 and over. Jazz FM has switched to DAB+ at 40 kbps, and is no longer available on all radios.
Flame Christian has ceased broadcasting on the Manchester trial multiplex.
The requested format change for London AM and DAB station Love Sport has been approved by Ofcom, meaning the station is no longer required to provide talk based programmes on subjects such as business.
Celador station The Breeze has retained its license to broadcast in Bristol on FM.
TalkSPORT has retained global Premier League football audio rights, and will provide coverage until the 2021/22 season.
In connection with the upcoming launch of Hits Radio, Bauer have made some changes to their DAB service line up.
Absolute Radio 70s and Kerrang ceased broadcasting in London. Their two mono slots have been combined to provide a stereo slot for Hits Radio. Absolute Radio 70s and Kerrang are now available on the Tayside DAB multiplex.
Magic Soul has left the Birmingham multiplex, with Hits Radio taking over the space.
Hits Radio has been added to several local multiplexes, using vacant space. Except in London, the station broadcasts in DAB using 80kbps mono, and should be available on most DAB receivers.
The Hits, which currently broadcasts across Scotland and northern England will become Hits Radio from the 4th of June.
The RAJAR Q1 2018 audience figures has reported a growth in digital listeners, with 50% of listening done via digital platforms (including DAB, digital TV, and online).
A number of digital only stations have increased in popularity:
- Heart 80s now reaches 1.4 million listeners, but Absolute Radio 80s (with a smaller coverage area) remains the UK’s most popular 80s radio stations with 1.5 million listeners.
- Union Jack now has 114,000 listeners, up from 71,000 year on year.
- Virgin Radio, whilst loosing some listeners, has increased listening hours, meaning its listeners are listening to the station for longer.
- Kisstory, Jazz FM, Smooth Extra, and some other digital only stations have also gained more listeners.
Meanwhile, most BBC national station have remained mostly static, but the Heart network (including Heart 80s, and the Heart Extra national service) now has more listeners than BBC Radio 1.
Editors comments: I’ve actually went the opposite way, switching back to analogue methods, as the poor quality mono sound that most DAB stations provide is not satisfactory. DAB+, whilst stereo, gives even poorer sound quality to the point that listening to some DAB+ stations actually gives me headaches. Forces Radio BFBS (using 24kbps stereo) offers very poor sound quality.
I have now switched back to my local BBC station, BBC Newcastle. Following transmitter changes, I no longer have access to Rathergood Radio on FM, but I still listen to this station via Radio Player.
Sound Digital, the UK’s second commercial DAB multiplex, is to extend its coverage.
Listeners in Wales, the South West, East Anglia, and North East Scotland will benefit from the extended coverage area, and there will also be a small coverage boost in and around Eastbourne on the south coast of England.
Sound Digital is a joint venture between broadcasters Bauer Media and Wireless Group, and infrastructure firm Arqiva. The multiplex carries a variety of DAB and DAB+ stations including Talk Radio, Union Jack, and Virgin Radio.
Bauer Media are re-branding Key 103 in Manchester as Hits Radio, on the 4th June. This service will also replace The Hits, and existing national service. A local service, presumably with existing local breakfast and drive time shows will be available in Manchester, with a national version carried elsewhere.
The Hits for a time, aligned with Bauer’s local brands forming a small network of ‘3’ stations in Scotland and Northern England, but has remained as The Hits on Freeview throughout.
This news comes after increasing cost cutting measures across Bauer’s radio stations, with Northsound 2 going digital only, and a reduction in Absolute Radio’s medium wave network about to take place. There has also been increases in the amount of Network programmes on some stations.
UPDATE: Hits Radio will also provide networked programmes all Bauer FM stations, including mid-morning, afternoon, and evening shows. Gethin Jones, and Dave Vitty will join Gemma Atkinson on the Manchester breakfast show, with Wes Butters hosting the Drivetime show. Mike Toolan moves to mid-mornings across the network. This explains the recently introduced ‘All The Hits on …’ slogan on the existing Bauer City network stations.
Ofcom has given approval for the Bauer owned station Absolute Radio to reduced it’s medium wave (AM) coverage area from 90% of the UK to 85%. A number of transmitters will be turned off completely, whilst others will have the power output reduced.
This means that a number of listeners in Aberdeen, Dundee, Hull, Devon, Cornwall, and North Wales will lose coverage. Listeners in South Wales and some other areas will actually gain coverage, due to reduced co-channel interference from transmitters operating on the same frequency.
Absolute Radio will remain available on other platforms, including DAB digital radio, and Freeview television.
Some listeners in rural areas may lose access to Absolute Radio completely, as there are still gaps in DAB coverage, particularly on the D1 National multiplex which carries Absolute Radio. Many people are also yet to own a DAB radio. Viewers who only receive a relay Freeview television service will not be able to recieve Absolute Radio via the Freeview platform.