Ofcom has received two DAB applications for Cumbria local multiplexes.
Bauer have applied for a license to cover North and West Cumbria. This will consist of BBC Radio Cumbria, and CFM. The rest of capacity will be used to plug coverage gaps for Bauer’s national brands, including Scala Radio, and Absolute Radio 80s. Some capacity will be reserved for future station launches.
Nation Broadcasting has teamed with Muxco for a multiplex covering south Cumbria, and North Lancashire. BBC Radio Cumbria will feature, along with national stations Heart, Smooth, and Capital, which broadcast on FM in the area. Community stations Bay Trust Radio and Cando FM will also be on the multiplex using DAB+, as will digital stations Fun Kids Junior (DAB+) and Chris Country (DAB+).
Nation are also planning to launch a new station Bay Radio, which may appeal to listeners of the original The Bay station which was replaced by Heart following the sale of the station to Global.
No bidders have put forward a proposal for Southwest Scotland, although the North and West Cumbria multiplex may offer some over-spill coverage. Both Nation/Muxco and Bauer have suggested that if successful they can have the multiplexes up and running within 12 months.
Ofcom have revised plans for Cumbria and North Lancashire local DAB, based on feedback from stakeholders. Instead of two multiplexes, three frequency blocks will be used. It will be up to applicants to decided how the frequencies should be used.
The move is unusually, as the previous proposals allowed for DAB to mirror the FM coverage areas of the largest commercial stations, CFM in the north, and Heart in the south.
The new proposal will allow for more flexibility, and may even see multiple layers of coverage in some parts of the area. Equally, a single much larger multiplex could be created to cover the whole of Cumbria and North Lancashire.
Ofcom is to advertise two new local DAB multiplexes to cover Cumbria and North Lancashire. One is designed to cover the Morecambe Bay area, with the second to cover North & West Cumbria and Southwest Scotland.
No indication has yet to been given as to which stations will be carried, but capacity is likely to be reserved on both for BBC Radio Cumbria. Heart North Lancs is also likely to be carried on the Morecambe license, along with Smooth Lake District. The North Cumbria/South West Scotland is likely to carry CFM, and may also carry Westsound FM and BBC Radio Scotland.
This step gives an indication that there are plans for a digital switchover for radio, as Cumbria is one of the last areas to gain a local DAB multiplex.