The NOW Digital multiplex in Dorset which currently covers Bournemouth and Poole is expanding west today to cover Dorchester and Weymouth.
Arqiva is turning on two new transmitters at Poole and Bincombe Hill, as well as boosting the transmitters at St Catherine’s Hill and Winterbourne Stickland. This will increase DAB digital radio coverage for local stations to over 80% of the population in the area – around 300,000 households – and will add many miles of roads into local DAB coverage for the first time.
Arqiva will also be switching on a further digital transmitter in Shaftesbury covering the northern part of the area before the end of the year.
The multiplex, which first launched in August 2002, carries BBC Radio Solent, Wave 105, Heart, Capital, Smooth, XFM and Fire Radio. Dorchester-based UKRD station Wessex FM is not part of the line-up.
Paul Eaton, Director of Digital Radio, Arqiva, said: “I am delighted that the local DAB coverage expansion programme is finally underway and we look forward to playing our part in expanding local DAB coverage to the level of commercial radio FM coverage”.
The new transmitters are part of an industry and Government programme of work that aims to expand the coverage and listening to DAB digital radio. National BBC DAB coverage has been increased to 96% of the population and the Government, BBC and commercial radio has agreed plans to build a further 182 local DAB transmitters to extend local DAB coverage to more than 90% of the population. This will make DAB available to an additional eight million listeners across the UK and add over 6,700 km of roads into coverage. The programme of work is expected to complete by the end of 2016 and further areas will see coverage boosted and expanded this Autumn.
Martin Ball, Managing Director of Wave 105, said: “Wave 105 epitomises what true local radio is about so we’re delighted to offer our listeners in the county of Dorset another platform to listen to us on. The Wave 105 team are incredibly excited about our future on digital radio and the opportunities that it offers us”. Wave 105 recorded its highest reach this week in RAJAR, giving the station 395,000 weekly listeners compared with 366,000 last quarter and 376,000 last year.
Almost 54% of homes in the Bournemouth area have a DAB digital radio, and 41% of radio listening hours are to digital platforms. Until now many listeners in Dorset have not been able to receive any of their great local stations via DAB digital radio.
Ford Ennals, CEO Digital Radio UK, said: “This is a big weekend for Bournemouth and the surrounding area and for digital radio. It is critical that we expand the coverage of local DAB stations across the UK to the level of FM coverage and I am delighted that this coverage expansion has now started”.
Sports fans across the county will be able to follow the progress of AFC Bournemouth on BBC Radio Solent including the station’s live and exclusive commentary of AFC Bournemouth’s opening match at the Vitality Stadium against Aston Villa on Saturday 8 August from 2pm.
BBC Radio Solent’s Cherries commentator Kris Temple, said: “We’re very excited for Cherries fans across the county, who are now more able to hear our passionate commentary of their local Premier League team. For over forty years BBC Radio Solent has been at the heart of live local sport, and we’re incredibly proud of what AFC Bournemouth has achieved and look forward to every kick of every game on Dorset DAB in this coming season”.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, added: “I welcome the big switch-on in Dorset and wish BBC Radio Solent and the excellent local commercial radio stations great success on DAB. The future of radio is digital and this is part of a major expansion of DAB digital radio coverage across the UK.”