Ofcom secures the future of AM till 2020
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Ofcom secures the future of AM till 2020

Ofcom is inviting applications for community radio licences to operate on medium wave, which gives the band at least another 7 years life.

Applicants will be able to apply later this year, which, if the usual Ofcom path is taken, means licences will be given out in early 2014 and stations will have two years to start broadcasting on a five year licence.

This means Ofcom is supporting the use of the medium wave band till past 2020 – confirming any switch-off date of full analogue radio is a long way off.

Licensing rounds are usually done on a region-by-region basis, but for AM Ofcom is inviting applications for community radio licences with up to 10km radius for locations anywhere throughout the UK in the second half of 2013.

There are over 200 community radio stations on-air around the UK today, with less than 10 of them on AM – four of which are in Greater London.

0 26 3982 11 January, 2013 Community Radio News, Industry News Friday, January 11th, 2013


  1. Drew White

    It’s a complete mess to have the industry promoting DAB and online
    listening, then announce that several years from now some new AM
    services will be launched.

    Why are these not slots on RadioPlayer? If these stations won’t begin broadcasting for another 18 months to 3 years, just imagine how much further the phone and broadband market + tech devices will have moved on.

  2. Ian Lamsdale

    This does seem messy. How many people listen to local AM stations and I assume the cost of transmission compared to FM/DAB and Online are huge? Does anyone operate a successful local AM licence in the UK?

    1. Mr A. M. Barnd

      Fresh Radio in the Yorkshire Dales started migrating to FM, but closed last year.

      Radio Maldwyn in mid-Wales went into administration and was revived as Radio Hafren which continues today.

      Sunshine 855 in Shropshire is in the process of opening an FM transmitter.

      However… Sunrise Radio, Kismat, Asian Sound, Radio XL, Desi Radio, etc etc etc continue running successful commercial services on AM.

      I see this announcement appealing to the ethnic stations in large urban areas more than stations wanting to play mainstream pop to small towns.

      1. Radio Geordie

        There’s also Spectrum Radio in London which for many years has added additional services. In fact, I’ve just checked out their website and they have 5 different services.

        There’s main AM service, another operates on DAB (it does not carry the AM service), a third service available on Sky, a fourth available exclusively online and a second DAB strand broadcasting an Arab service (Sout al Khaleej).

        As it operates a multi-language service (similar to the BBC World Service), this is the sort of service that would thrive on AM.

  3. Peter

    If you have a lot of space then you could do AM. I wonder if the 20m rule still applies like on AM RSLs. Like most things if you have experts on hand that give there time for free then you can save a lot of money.

  4. Dave Wiggy Wiggins

    this is bad now because a lot of stations are broadcasting on fm only not on am but here in the forest of dean no one want to set up a local station on am here in the forest of dean take bristol they got the breeze on fm now but here in the forestof dean ofcom will let any radio groups to have this am licence but no radio stations want to touch it it would be nice to have bauer magic station here on 1503 am here in the forest of dean but no so i do think it is useless now and that is true now

    1. Dean Forrest

      They did set up a local radio station in the Forest of Dean on AM.

      It was called Forest of Dean Radio, surprisingly enough.

      It ran out of money and closed down.

  5. Almorr

    Although AM (medium wave) started my love for radio, I have not listened to anything on AM for many years now, I enjoy still listening to radio, but mainly FM DAB and now on the Internet as well.

  6. Peter Sullivan

    I thought that it was already known that any analogue switch-off wouldn’t apply to community radio, just to full licenses? So, to me, this tells us nothing about OFCOM’s plans for DSO. If the FM band suddenly opens up for new community stations once all the full licenses have gone, presumably the AM community stations will be entitled to bid to move to FM licenses instead – or stay on AM and continue to use their existing transmitter set-up?

  7. David

    If you look at it in a wider way and think who may be interested still listening on am I think it could work,as long as the stupid restrictions on sponsorship and advertising were lifted.

    .I have just listened to Five live on am with a good signal on a good old radio admittedly and at no time did I think I wish I was listening on DAB, it sounds warmer and is non compressed .It isnt the mode, its the output that should matter.

    New pop commercial radio style wouldnt work, but I can see a 50plus station doing fine especially if it was as locally speech based as possible.

    It would be different and am broadcasting is so much easier than it was ,space is not a problem any more.

    We havent changed that much in 30 years that suddenly poor old medium wave is un-listenable to.??

  8. roysand

    According to ITU the mediumwave is for broadcasting and EU says we are free to use the am band in the name of freedom of speach and competition. AM wiill last for ever and thre will allway some want to broadcast in AM and if we allow better bandwidth of 10-15 kHz, am is great to STEREO. Better coverage, dynamic, audio than dab+.

    1. Drew

      Sure, AM stations have been very attractive until now – especially where there’s a lack of FM choice in a rural market.

      in my mid-late 90s Capital Gold days we were up with some London FMs while people were already trying to argue that AM listening was “dying”. But right now the industry is pushing DAB hard – with the D-Love campaign & events like Drive2Digital – and when people buy new radios for the home they are wooed by Digital sets (even if, like my mother, they plug it in and leave it on FM forever without realising that’s not digital).

      No AM on those sets! They are advertising licences for a waveband the industry’s own choice of listening device does not support.

      If these AM stations aren’t even going to be open for another 2 years, the few remaining high street shops and the car industry are going to have moved even further away from devices that support AM.

  9. Matt

    In fact most radios that have DAB, don’t have AM they only have FM, so look at that, Ofcom is basically saying have AM or DAB, which with all this digital Britain stuff going on. Surely they should be expanding DAB again (New stations, internet stations added etc), not AM.

  10. Dave P

    Ofcom has an agenda to close FM with the only small exception that some
    community station couls use a small section of the band. Vhf frequencies
    are of more interest to the private radio industry in future sale =
    Govt money! Therefore Ofcom trying to persuade community radio to bite
    at MF AM

    So few new sets receive AM now it would be useless. What
    is needed is for the BBC etc to start running some DRM on MF AM What
    about using the old World Service Tx at Orford Ness, its set up for DRM.
    India are fast building AM DRM networks. Asia is going the same way and
    Brazil is poised. The receiver market is beginning to roll out
    multiband sets with DRM So thats the way the UK should go. DRM 30
    could follow to digitise the Vhf bands. DAB is based on such an old
    outdated codec, its never been good in terms of audio quality compared
    to FM and more modern digital systems. e.g DRM , DAB+ Time for the UK to build out for the future

  11. stephen frypan

    only am can reproduce vintage music as it was originally broadcast.The texture,blend,warm sound and natural fading creates a time tunnel to the past that we should never replace.The sanitised,crystal tones of digital are cold and heartless.Just like cask ale wins every time against tinned “dead” beer,so does am against digital.

    1. stephen frypan

      yes Stephen,your right,the natural “blending”of tone,texture and ambience cannot be beaten.The Beach Boys “God Only Knows”can ONLY be played on am if it is to retain its “Radio Caroline” romance and spiritual feel.

      1. stephen frypan

        Come off it Stephen!the next thing you will be saying is that candles are better than L.E.D lights because the glow is warmer and more “cosy” than the cold heartless robotic twinkle that is the L.E.D!I would quite happilly devour a hot meat and potato pie whilst basking in the economical glow of a L.E.D lantern.(but yes ! it would be much nicer by candlelight.

  12. Peter Jarai

    Give radio Caroline a Europe wide MW Licence Any freq will my be MW 558khz 539m or MW 648khz Wood do .And 700 watts of power from the ross revanage ship

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