Ofcom License Changes

Regulator Ofcom, has extended the licenses of two community stations by five years. Cando FM, serving Barrow-in-Furness, is now permitted to broadcast until the 22nd November 2025. While Koast FM, which serves the Ashington area of Northumberland, is permitted to broadcast until 10th December 2025.

Meanwhile, The 3Gs Development Trust which had intended to provide a service to Merthyr Tydfil under Merthyr Radio name, has handed back its license award to Ofcom. This service had not commenced broadcasts, and will now not launch.

Two Community Stations to Increase Coverage Area

Beginning in West London, Punjabi station Desi Radio has been granted a power output increase to allow its existing MW transmitter. Due to an increase in steel structure buildings and electronic devices, this transmitter broadcasting to the Southall area is impacted by the ‘noise floor’ interference, which the power output increase will overcome.

Additionally, the target community served by Desi Radio has spread out to surrounding areas. The power output increase will also allow the transmitter to serve these areas. This will re-align Desi Radio with its target audience and the community it serves.

Seahaven FM, currently serving the Neahaven area, is to expand to also serve Eastbourne using a second transmitter. This will be combined with a power output increase at the current transmitter. A previous similar request for a second transmitter was rejected by Ofcom, due to a lack of contiguous coverage. However, the combination of new transmitter and power increase overcomes this hurdle.

Seahaven FM is a locally focused service, and the extension to Eastbourne means more people in the area can access local content in their area, something that commercial stations fail to provide. Additionally, the power output increase will also improve coverage for those in the existing license area.

New Volunteer Led DAB Station for Bath

Update 05/11/2020: Radio Bath has launched on the Bath and West Wiltshire multiplex, using normal DAB in mono at 56 kbps. This is below standard, but may be satisfactory if there is a high proportion of speech based content.

Tomorrow (5th November 2020) will see the launch of a new volunteer led local station for Bath.

Radio Bath will be available on the Bath and West Wiltshire DAB multiplex. The transmission method is unconfirmed, and the station has not yet appeared on the multiplex. However, the multiplex has an excess of empty capacity available, so the use of DAB+ is unlikely.

The station is led entirely by volunteers, and is in the process of becoming a charity. Any profits will be invested back into the local area.

Schedule Changes at Rossendale Radio

I don’t routinely publish posts on schedule changes, but there has been a significant schedule change at Rossendale Radio worthy of a news post.

Beginning with breakfast, Pete Sweetmore returns to the station to present Valley Breakfast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Paul Jenkins presents the show on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with this alternating arrangement being a permanent replacement for Tony Horne, who has now left the station.

Another significant change is Bob Chadwick replacing Tony Nixon on the drive time show. Tony remains at the station, but is now concentrating on his role of station manager.

Other presenters on the new line up include ex 2BR presenter Dave Metcalfe who presents The Valley Today from 11am till 3pm, and Derek Webster who presents the late show.

Rossendale Radio broadcasts on FM to the Rossendale area of Lancashire.

Further Two Community Stations Extend Coverage

A further two community stations have opened new transmitters, extending coverage and/or improving reception.

Derbyshire based Erewash Sound has added a new transmitter for Long Eaton, which is broadcasting on 103.5 FM, to compliment its existing Ilkeston 96.8 FM transmitter.

Beyond Radio now has a transmitter serving Carnforth in Lancashire, operating on 107.5 FM. The station already served Lancaster and Morecambe on 103.5 FM.

Cuillin FM Rebrands to Radio Skye

A change that I have just become aware of is the re-branding of Cuillin FM to Radio Skye, which took place in July of this year (2020).

The station broadcasts 24/7 to the Skye and Lochalsh area on FM, with a varied schedule including Gaelic programming.

The station is licensed as a commercial station, but is locally focused, and has partnerships in place with several local organisations.

Bayside Radio Joins DAB+

Bayside Radio has begun broadcasting using DAB+ on the North West Wales multiplex. The locally focused community station is centred on the Bay of Colwyn, and broadcasts to that area on 87.7 FM.

The DAB+ version of the station uses a bit rate of 32 kbps. Albeit sound quality will be on the poor side, the station is in stereo. Only DAB+ compatible radios can access the service, labelled as Bayside N.Wales.

New Station Launches

New community station SWU FM launched on Friday (23rd October 2020), at 5pm. The station is available on 103.7 FM in Bristol, and focuses on underground music, and I’m led to believe the initials stand for South West Underground. The station fills a gap not covered by stations in the area.

Meanwhile, Coast and County Radio has begun testing on 97.4 FM to the Scarborough area. The name of the station is familiar, as Coast and Country Radio previously broadcast on the North Yorkshire DAB multiplex. This service will be locally focused, and will provide an alternative to Greatest Hits Radio, which replaced Yorkshire Coast Radio and no longer provides any local content.

Caroline Community Radio Gets Ready for Launch

Caroline Community Radio is launching tomorrow (19th October 2020) at 6am. The station broadcasts to the Maldon District of Essex on 94.7 FM.

The station is staffed entirely by volunteers, and receives technical support from former pirate station Radio Caroline, which broadcasts to nearby Suffolk on 648 MW.

The presenter line up includes some Radio Caroline DJs, whilst music is a varied selection from the last five decades.

Update (19/10/2020): The station has now launched, and I’ve since learnt that the Radio Caroline connections extend a little further. To be clear, both organisations are independent, but Radio Caroline did offer the use of the Caroline name to Caroline Community Radio. Additionally, the Radio Caroline provides a sustaining service to Caroline Community Radio at weekends, in the form of a simulcast of online station Caroline Flashback.

Station of the Week: YO1 Radio and Sister Stations

Last week, an indecisive me opted not to do a Station of the Week, as I couldn’t decide which station to pick. The feature returns will a special commendation to YO1 Radio in York.

YO1 Radio, licensed as a community station, broadcasts to York on 102.8 FM. Like many similar stations, the station does a brilliant job of serving the local community, both on-air, and online with a fantastic website designed by The Media Site UK Ltd (who happen to also provide hosting to the website you’re reading now).

However, the real reason the station has won Station of the Week, is the management teams response to the recent cull of local commercial radio. A number of online local stations have been launched, following a similar format to YO1 Radio.

Those that I’m aware of are:

  • KL1 Radio for King’s Lynn
  • RB1 Radio for Rotherham
  • TX1 Radio for Doncaster and Bassetlaw

From social media posts, it is clear that many still value proper local radio, and it is great that the team behind YO1 Radio have regonised the demand.

That said, launching brand new stations in a recession is a risk, and although costs are lower by being online only, audience potential is also reduced.

I really hope the new stations are successful. It’s about time that local radio has its comeback.