In the UK, frequency modulation will not be switched off, at least not for the next ten years, media minister Julia Lopez said a few days ago. Although it is estimated that analogue radio will only account for 12 to 14% of all radio listening in 2030, FM remains popular with many listeners, particularly the elderly or vulnerable, who drive older cars or live in areas with limited DAB coverage. The fate of mediumwave broadcasters is sealed: with 3% of all listeners, they will have to plan to switch off, to reduce the costs of a substantially duplicated network. There are currently more than 300 analogue stations operating in the UK and over 570 in DAB. Sixty percent of all listening comes from DAB or other digital platforms. Programme offerings are expanding as new franchises in DAB are giving many small local stations the opportunity to broadcast.
Between May and June 2021 the British public broadcaster will switch off the medium-wave transmitters of another ten local radio stations, because the installations on this frequency range “no longer offer an advantageous quality-price ratio for British citizens”. The migration to digital had been announced ten years ago (in 2011): the first closures began in 2018, followed in 2020 by further deactivations in Scotland, Wales and England. Today, all BBC local radio is receivable on digital terrestrial TV and local DAB multiplexes, on FM or online (via smartphones, computers or smart speakers). Abandoning amplitude modulation will be: BBC Essex; BBC Radio Cambridgeshire; BBC Radio Devon; BBC Radio Leeds; BBC Radio Sheffield; BBC Hereford & Worcester; BBC Radio Stoke; BBC Radio Lancashire; BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle. Two other stations, however, will reduce their coverage area: Radio Wales and Radio Gloucestershire. Listeners are provided with a website https://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/ with alternative listening options, a help line and a telephone for listening advice.
Thanks to the patience and intuition of Luke Owen, defined by The Guardian as a “musical archivist”, it is possible to relive the atmosphere of London in the Eighties by listening to the commercials aired by London pirate radio stations between 1984 and 1993, which have been collected on two CDs. Owen in fact recorded the free-range and unprofessional commercials that were aired and that, given the lack of professionalism, were considered a boring interlude between one song and another. And yet, listening to them again, one finds a London that has disappeared, in an era in which there was no web, and in which listeners, in order to be informed about the musical events taking place in the city, had pirate radio stations as their only resource: programming of public or official radio stations was only musical, aiming at the English middle class and did not represent the different ethnic groups present in the capital.
Space also for minorities
Thus are curious the advertisements in Greek, the news about raves or the advertisements of stores that allow to reconstruct a map of alternative shops. The two CDs are published by the London label founded by Owen: “Death Is Not the End“, which is also the name of a program broadcast online by the London internet radio station NTS Radio.
More details in the Guardian article.
Ofcom, the authority that regulates telecommunications in the United Kingdom, is considering an application in which Bauer asks to change the format (the type of programs broadcast) of Absolute Radio, a station it acquired that broadcasts on 105.8 MHz FM from the Crystal Palace site in London. Ofcom has issued a statement to that effect in which it says that “Because these changes would substantially alter the character of Absolute Radio London, we are seeking the views of listeners and other interested parties before making our final decision.” A station’s program type is closely tied to its broadcasting license, so the authority is reviewing whether the format change will not eliminate a service to which listeners are accustomed.
On the side of consumers
The decision will follow the authority’s guidelines, as detailed on the website: “We also help to make sure people across the UK are satisfied with what they see and hear on TV and radio, and that programmes reflect the audiences they serve. We consider every complaint we receive from viewers and listeners. Often, we investigate further and we sometimes find broadcasters in breach of our rules. We are independent, and funded by fees paid to us by the companies we regulate“.
From Absolute to Greatest Hits Radio
If the request is accepted, Absolute Radio on 105.8 MHz will change its name to Greatest Hits Radio and will broadcast pop classics and rock hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as local news and information aimed at Londoners aged 25-54. The consultation will close on March 10, 2021. Greatest Hits Radio is the new radio network that began broadcasting in September 2020 when Bauer changed formats at 49 of its 56 radio stations. We talked about it here.
Greatest Hits Radio is already now available to Londoners on digital radio (DAB) on the London 1 multiplex on block 12C, in the standard MP2 flavour. On the same multiplex, Londoners also can listen digitally to their beloved Absolute Radio. It will be interesting to read OFCOMs decision – will the DAB presence have any influence?
What is your view? Who should be on 105.8 MHz FM in London?
Boom Radio is a new British radio station that aims to intercept the tastes of Baby Boomers, the generation of over 57s (born between 1946 and 1964, now aged between 57 and 75). The station offers a mix of music, characters and conversations and will be on air on DAB (digital radio) in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow. The radio station is the brainchild of two radio managers, Phil Riley and David Lloyd, who after realizing that the baby boomers audience, while listening to the radio a lot, did not have a station that intercepted their musical tastes, set out to fill this gap. Their biographies are interesting, both are driven by a sincere passion for radio. Despite the long career behind them, which began as a disc jockey, they decided to get involved (they are also baby boomers), also committing financially in this adventure. But if they have been able to realize it, as they themselves have declared, it is because as soon as they started talking about their idea they immediately had a great response from radio hosts and especially financiers.
In a study by the British public broadcaster, the energy impact of radio broadcasts on all bands was calculated: Medium Waves, FM, DAB and digital terrestrial TV. In addition to the consumption to produce the programs and distribute them on the different platforms, the research also estimated those to listen to them, then linking them (for each medium) with the hours of listening, to quantify the hourly energy consumption. This highlighted the key points where to concentrate efforts to reduce the energy footprint.
BBC radio attracts over 30 million listeners in the UK every week through live stations, podcasts and other on-demand content. Unlike TV, which completed the digital switchover in 2012, the BBC still provides analogue radio services that continue to make up a considerable portion of the audience. While broadcasters are discussing whether radio should switch to digital, the media industry has been studying the possibility of migrating to distribution exclusively over the Internet. Both of these approaches would have inevitable environmental impacts that have yet to be quantified. The research then assesses the effect that a digital radio switchover or a transition to IP-only services could have on energy consumption, and addresses also alternative scenarios.
The famous aggregator will have to turn off more than 90% of the audio streams it hosts to prevent UK users from listening to foreign broadcasters. It has in fact lost the lawsuit filed in 2017 by Sony and Warner, two big names in the music business (together they control 43% of the global market). The High Court of Justice has recognised that TuneIn has violated the record rights because it is not a simple intermediary (which publishes only the links) but also inserts advertising. In the UK, therefore, those who want to listen to a foreign broadcaster will have to search the web for the address of the radio and streaming site (or change aggregator). The ruling protects radio stations (TuneIn places advertisements into their programming) and other countries may comply with the decision of the English High Court. But in perspective it calls into question one of the pillars of the web: the ability to listen to radio stations around the world. So far, record companies have considered foreign listeners to be marginal to the web, but now music could change.
From September 2020, 49 of the 56 stations acquired in 2019 by the Bauer Group will change their name to Greatest Hits Radio, making the network the most important in the UK. Only four stations will retain their names under the Hits Radio brand: Pulse 1 in Bradford, Signal 1 in Stoke, The Wave 96.4 in Swansea and Fire Radio in Bournemouth. Three others will remain autonomous (Lincs FM in Lincoln, Pirate FM in Cornwall and Sam FM in Bristol). All the digital-only radio stations acquired last year (from UKRD, Lincs, Wireless and Celador) will be closed down. The closure of the local offices has resulted in staff cuts and protests from listeners as they had to say goodbye to their favourite presenters. Here are the details of the operation.
In order to give more information to the public during the Coronavirus pandemic, Ofcom, the UK’s independent communications regulator, has approved the opening of some new temporary radio stations. Licences have been awarded in areas that are not already served by community radio stations on the condition that arrangements have been made with local community leaders. In support of this venture, the Community Media Association, the organisation for British community broadcasting, has contacted the societies that manage music royalties to organise favourable conditions. PRS for Music is asking only £ 86 a month plus 20% VAT for 12 weeks.
Funding programme for entertaining those at home
The Audio Content Fund, a government funded scheme that finances original public radio, has allocated £ 200,000 (later increased to £ 400,000) to ideas, targeting listeners in lockdown during the pandemic. Among the approved projects, there is a 15-minute transmission made by people over their 70s for an audience over their 70s, and a ‘virtual’ version of Strawberry Fair in Cambridge, a music and arts festival that attracts up to 50,000 people to East Anglia.
Julian Clover, Editorial Lead, Cambridge 105 Radio said: ‘Strawberry Fair is one of the highlights of the year for our city and is one of our most popular outside broadcasts. While we won’t be able to make it to Midsummer Common we hope that our Virtual Strawberry Fair is able to give a taste of summer to Cambridge 105 Radio listeners.’
Four radio stations covering the festival
In addition to Cambridge 105 Radio (105.0 MHz), parts of the coverage will be heard on neighbouring stations: Star Radio (Star broadcasts on 107.9FM in Cambridge, 107.1FM across Ely and the Fens and now on 107.3FM in Saffron Walden), HCR104fm (Huntingdon Community Radio) and Future Radio (107.8FM from Norwich).