Ofcom to advertise small-scale DAB in early 2020

Ofcom is asking for opinions on how best to license small-scale DAB allowing potentially hundreds of new radio stations to start broadcasting.

The Government is planning to give Ofcom the power to advertise for new multiplexes, under a modified version of the Broadcasting Act 1996.

The move will enable a significantly wider range of commercial and community radio stations to broadcast on the UK’s DAB digital radio platform.

Over 700 individual expressions of interest were submitted to run either a small-scale multiplex or a service on a multiplex recently.

A number of eligibility and ownership restrictions apply to small scale radio multiplex licences, including a body corporate which owns more than 20% of small-scale radio multiplex licences, a body which holds a national licence, or an individual.

The Order will also provide for the issuing of Community Digital Sound Programme (‘C-DSP’) licences, a new type of licence designed for community radio services broadcasting on DAB. The consultation sets out Ofcom’s proposed spectrum planning and licensing process for small-scale radio multiplex licences and a proposed licensing process for C-DSP licences.

Ofcom says: “We propose that the coverage area of a small-scale radio multiplex service is defined by the area where its transmitter(s) is/are predicted to provide a field strength of at least 63 dBµV/m, which corresponds to a level sufficient for useable indoor reception.

“This coverage area will also constitute the licensed area for the small-scale radio multiplex service. The coverage/licensed area will not include the areas in which a small-scale radio.”

Ofcom wants to hear from anyone with views on the best approach to developing a coverage area plan for small-scale radio multiplex services, how to advertise small-scale radio multiplex and C-DSP licences, and how it will assess applications.

The deadline for consultation responses is Friday 4 October 2019 and a statement setting out the final conclusions is expected to be published early in 2020, when Ofcom intends to start advertising licences.

The 10 technical trials of small-scale DAB in various locations across the UK continue during the process.

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  1. Mr Boltar says

    So will these use MP2 so everyone can receive them or will they be AAC+ so they take up less bandwidth but get fewer listeners?

    1. mb23 says

      They are DAB+ (AAC+) only so anyone with an old set will need to upgrade.

      1. Mr Boltar says

        Or just not bother listening which is far more likely.

  2. Lee says

    Will Global or Bauer be allowed to bid to run a small-scale multiplex and be allowed to air more versions of Heart, Smooth, Greatest Hits, Hits etc as you can unfortunately hear these brands around the UK churning out the same old lazy radio. I want local or a wider variety of radio stations with new talent, playing a bigger variety of music, offering diverse entertainment and offering comprehensive travel news, all of which are missing from Global (and Bauer) owned radio stations.

    1. mb23 says

      There are safeguards in place in the legislation to stop the big groups doing this, including limitations on ownership by existing mux operators. The services are likely to be similar to those on the trial multiplexes, including community stations.

    2. Radio Geordie says

      Technically, Bauer do already after buying out Celador & UKRD – who owned the Bristol & Cambridge small-scale platforms respectively.
      With a bit of luck (or backbone), they may have to sell these licences.

    3. Dave says

      These smell scale mux’s are a great idea but most are relays of internet radio stations. Not very cutting edge really…

      1. Dave says

        Cannot see the internet stations being able to afford the cost of beeing on the multiplexs in future. The multiplexs will have to re run as a bissness.

  3. Paul says

    I think the comment on internet radio is relevant but all stations should be run as a business. Take away this silly £15k max income that restricts most FM community radio to modern day hospital radio at no fault to them. I currently put out a two hour program on my community station, as a whole it has little or no response from its potential audience who just don’t know it’s there. It’s not like 30 years ago where we were all knob twiddlers !

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