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.
Meanwhile, there are rumours circulating on social media that Global are acquiring the Quidem group of radio stations, which broadcast to the Midlands, and include the Touch FM and Banbury Sound brands.
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.
In the past few days, it has been announced that Global Radio have acquired Lancashire local radio station 2BR from UKRD. 2BR currently broadcasts in Central and East Lancashire on four FM frequencies, from studios in Hyndburn. The station also broadcasts on Lancashire DAB (64kbps mono), and recently celebrated being on-air for 18 years, having first launched in July 2000. The station has grown since it first launched, with Central FM and The Bee merging into 2BR.
So what does this mean for listeners? Initially, the station will carry on unchanged, but Global has a history of rebranding stations into their national brands of Capital, Heart, and Smooth. As Heart is already available in the area, as Heart North West (formerly Real Radio) and Heart Cumbria and North Lancashire (formerly The Bay), it seems unlikely that 2BR will become Heart. There is a possibility that some or all of 2BR frequencies might be used to plug gaps in the coverage of the existing Heart stations.
Capital, although with a more hit music based format than 2BR, could launch on the frequencies, as Capital is not currently available in the area. Smooth Radio, with a limited coverage of the area may expand it’s coverage area.
Either way, a rebrand is almost certain. Local output will drop to 7 hours weekdays (Breakfast and Drivetime), and 4 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Most current presenters are likely to leave the station. Significant change is on the cards.