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.
Global Radio’s Gold is to launch on the D1 National DAB multiplex on Monday (10th June). The service is expected to use DAB+, and occupy some of the space vacated when Heart Extra and Smooth Extra switched to DAB+ earlier this week.
Despite some reports suggesting that the service has already gone live, Gold is yet to appear on the D1 National multiplex. Nor is the service returning there, as to my knowledge Gold has never been broadcast on the D1 National multiplex before.
Gold is currently available in some areas on MW (AM) and DAB (normal format, 128 kbps stereo). It is unclear whether the service will stay on these platforms.
It is anticipated that Global will also launch another DAB+ service on the D1 National DAB multiplex. Details of this service have not been revealed.
Note: Gold fails the criteria for inclusion in the station guide, as the service is owned and operated by Global Radio, who are a domineering monopoly. Additionally, the service quality is deemed to be poor, as the majority of the service is automated without an obvious reason or benefit.
Global Radio has switched Heart Extra and Smooth Extra to DAB+. Both services operate on the D1 National multiplex.
Whilst both stations are now in stereo, a number of listeners will loose access, as many older DAB radios are not compatible with the newer DAB+ format. Heart Extra is using a bit rate of 32 kbps, giving relatively poor audio quality. Smooth Extra is using the slightly higher bit rate of 40 kbps.
This move frees up space on the D1 National multiplex, and will likely fuel rumours of the launch of a new station called Heart Dance.
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.
Communicorp have acquired Bob FM in North Hertfordshire. The station will be rebrand at Heart Hertfordforshire, and will merge with the Watford franchise that Communicorp recently purchased from Adventure Radio along with Connect FM.
Upon rebrand, the station will only have 3 hours locally programmes on weekdays, with none at weekends.
Note: This station now fails the criteria to be included on the Station Guide of this website. Although Communicorp ownership is acceptable being a smaller group, the upcoming rebrand will mean the local license it occupies will be used for a near national service.
Normal practice would be for the station to remain listed until rebrand. As the plans have already been revealed, and Ofcom are almost certain to approve them, I have decided to remove the station immediately.
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.
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.