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.
Chorley FM, a community radio station for the Chorley area of Lancashire, has closed abruptly, and have handed back their license to Ofcom. No reason has yet been given for the closure.
A police investigation had been launched In March after allegations that a director at the station had been sexually assaulted whilst working at the station. The complainant, Sam Martin, chose to go public after making the complaint to the police.
It is alleged that the board of Chorley FM ignored complaints, instead suspending Sam Martin without pay. She later resigned. The board of Chorley FM had subsequently changed.
Whilst it is not known if the two events are linked, the investigation may have contributed to the stations closure.
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.
DAB station Absolute Radio 90s has complete its transition to its new home on the SDL national multiplex. All versions of the station on the local multiplexes and the D1 national multiplex have been removed.
It is expected that sister station Kisstory will make the move from SDL national to D1 national next Monday.
Another Bauer Media owned station, Magic Soul, has expanded its coverage area and is now available on the Lancashire, Liverpool, & Manchester local DAB multiplexes.
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.