UK: UGLY FIGURE OF THE BBC. PUT ON THE SPOT ADMITS CRAZY SPENDING ON NEW LOGOS

The investigation by Ciaran McGrath, journalist for the Daily Express, was two-pronged: to shed light on how much the public broadcaster had spent to design the logos and the pressure on the over 75s to pay the licence fee, from which they were previously exempt
Source

It took a good investigation by the Daily Express to bring to light how much the BBC had spent on the ‘digital rebranding’ of its TV and digital channels. A six-figure sum, over £7 million, strenuously denied perhaps because it was difficult to justify, given the painful cuts made by the public broadcaster, such as the closure of many regional branches passed off as a ‘reshaping of the offer’. The BBC put up a wall for months, despite the fact that the newspaper invoked the Freedom of Information Act, a law that has guaranteed the right of access to information held by public authorities since 2000. So, in the end, the Daily Express submitted a formal complaint to the ICO (an independent body that upholds information rights in the UK) and at that point, the BBC capitulated: eight months had passed.

Too much opacity

Silver Voices is an organization founded to convey the views of the over the 60s to political parties to improve legislation and society
Source

The opinions collected by the Daily Express seep into the arrogance of the public broadcaster and its opacity. As in the speech by Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, a not-for-profit organisation of over-60s that aims to convey their opinions to political parties to improve legislation. According to Reed, the £7,261,039 spent could have cleared 45,000 subscription fees for the public broadcaster, thus helping most families with an elderly person with dementia, or relieving those struggling with energy bill payments. The BBC has also been reticent with Silver Voices, which, when asked how many over-75s previously exempt from the license fee had come clean, denied having a list. Yet, Reed points out, families who should be regularised continue to receive regular threatening letters ordering them to pay up. Let us hope, therefore, that light will be shed on this too.

Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini

UK: MANY NEW RADIO STATIONS DEBUT ON LOCAL DAB CHANNELS

148 radio stations in the UK hit the digital airwaves thanks to local radio revolution
Ofcom, the UK’s broadcast regulator, published a report on the first year of operation of the new DAB multiplexes
Source

Less than a year after digital multiplexes went live in the UK in the local area, already 148 stations have started broadcasting on DAB, increasing the range of programmes available to listeners. Compared to the other wavebands, broadcasting in the DAB band is cheaper because it allows several stations to broadcast on the same channel, thus sharing the costs of the transmitter (design, installation, transmission equipment, and antenna) and especially the running costs (station rental, power, and maintenance). A DAB+ channel can accommodate 12 to 24 programmes, depending on the bandwidth each radio requires (48 to 320 kHz, depending on the desired audio quality). Local commercial, community, and thematic broadcasters have arrived on the new frequencies, many of them making their debut on the airwaves.

Allocations still in progress

Ofcom awards five new small-scale DAB multiplex licences
The list of broadcasters that have already been granted authorization to broadcast on DAB on a local scale can be consulted on the Ofcom website
Source

The multiplexes in the local area are licensed by Ofcom (the UK’s communications regulator), which has so far authorized 59, of which 20 are already up and running. Others will go on air by the end of 2022 and during 2023. A third licensing round is currently being launched for the areas of Milton Keynes (Rutland), Stamford (Swindon), Marlborough (Wetherby and Harrogate), and the Yorkshire coast. The evaluation of the applications received for the fourth round, which made available a further 24 local multiplexes, is also underway. In spring 2023, the call for applications will be opened for round five, which will include the city of London and the southeast of England.

From the LGBT community to traditional Scottish music

Gorgeous Radio, previously only active on the web, is a broadcaster targeting the LGBT community
Gorgeous Radio, previously only active on the web, is a broadcaster targeting the LGBT community
Source

Stations previously only listenable on the web such as Salisbury Radio, Winchester Today, Rother Radio (Sheffield and Rotherham), Radio West Norfolk (King’s Lynn), and Central Radio (Blackpool) have debuted on the airwaves. Channels targeting specific groups, such as Gorgeous Radio (LGBT community), Spice Radio (local Asian community in the North East of England), and Celtic Music Radio in Glasgow and Edinburgh (contemporary and traditional Scottish music and culture). And then not-for-profit community stations operating on AM or FM, such as Radio Cardiff (98.7 MHz), Drive 105 (105.3 in Derry/Londonderry), Radio Tyneside (93.6), Cambridge 105 (105.0), Switch Radio (107.5 in Birmingham), Black Country Radio (92.2 and 102.5), Future Radio (107.8 in Norwich) and Akash Radio (1323 Medium Wave, the ‘1st Punjabi Radio Station in the North of England’ broadcasting from Leeds). As well as thematic radio stations offering dance, soul, afrobeat, album rock, easy listening, nostalgia, and alternative music.

UK: HEART ATTACK LIVE

Suffolk's GenX Radio presenter Tim Gough dies on air
The BBC website dedicated a lengthy article, with testimonies from former colleagues who remember him for the time they spent together behind the microphone
Source

It’s as good a day as any in Ipswich, a Suffolk town where GenX Radio is based, a web station that within a year has been so successful that it has taken the leap into the airwaves, submitting an application to Ofcom to open a DAB channel (the authorisation will come a few days after Tim’s death). Even though it has no competition, because it is the only commercial station in the region, it needs to upgrade its palimpsest in order to land in the digital band. So it recruited a veteran of the airwaves for its most important programme: the breakfast slot, which between 6am and 9am takes listeners from waking up to resuming their activities. And Tim Gough is an exceptional presenter: he has decades in the business behind him and, above all, began his career in 1986 at Radio Orwell, a station based in Ipswich (transmitted on 1170 kHz on medium wave and 97.1 MHz on FM).

A morning like any other

A still from Green Day's video clip, in which Madness depicts the daily grind of getting up to go to the office even when you got home very late.
A still from Green Day’s video clip, in which Madness depicts the daily grind of getting up to go to the office even when you got home very late. But work calls!
Source

The sun rose at 7.37am. The sky is grey but not cold, it’s 13 degrees. It’s Monday, a new week begins and it’s time to get the energy going. Tim is happy. These are the first broadcasts he is conducting after ten years away from the microphones. He lives 30 km from the station and to avoid travelling to the studios before dawn he has equipped himself at home. He has been on the air for almost an hour when he plays Grey Day by Madness, a ska group that in 1981 with this song parodied a grey morning like that, but in which you still have to get up and drag yourself like zombies to the office after a night of revelry.

Suddenly the music stops

In the BBC report, there is an image taken at Saxon Radio (used to broadcast on 96.4 FM, and merged with Radio Orwell) showing a Tim in his early twenties preparing the setlist
In the BBC report, there is an image taken at Saxon Radio (used to broadcast on 96.4 FM, and merged with Radio Orwell) showing a Tim in his early twenties preparing the setlist (he made his debut at the age of 19, in 1986)
Source

Grey Day is a track full of energy, evoking for Tim the years when he took his first steps at Radio Orwell, in 1986, and he thinks it’s the right push to face a new cloudy week. But shortly afterwards, at 7.50, the music suddenly stops: Tim is taken ill, probably from a heart attack. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics tried to revive him, but after 25 minutes of effort, they had to throw in the towel. Tim left live. As soon as the news spreads, the emails start arriving: hundreds of messages of love. After all, Tim is a well-known personality: after his debut on Radio Orwell in 1986, he became a specialist in morning host. He moved on to Saxon Radio and SGR-FM and made appearances on Smooth Radio, several stations in the East Midlands and other national radio stations. The BBC article collects several testimonials from former colleagues, who agree that he is a friendly, funny and very talented guy. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)

UNITED KINGDOM: BUREAUCRATIC ERROR, COVID, SITE TO BE DECOMMISSIONED, POWER CUT… IT CLOSES

BUREAUCRATIC ERROR, COVID, SITE TO BE DECOMMISSIONED, POWER CUT... GRAVITY FM CLOSES
The broadcaster bid farewell to its listeners by posting on Facebook a summary of the vicissitudes it went through
Source

All that was missing was an earthquake and locusts (John Belushi in The Blues Brothers): what happened to Gravity FM is textbook for the flurry of bad luck that forced it to close. The staff of the station, which had been on air since December 2008 on 97.2 MHz in Grantham (Margareth Thatcher’s hometown, a town of 35,000 inhabitants 40 km from Nottingham), recounts this on its Facebook page. Gravity is a community station, it advertises, but it has been in bad shape for some time and another company was formed to take it over. But in the transfer of the licence something goes wrong: the UK’s airwaves regulator, Ofcom, makes a mistake. That forces the station to take a long and expensive legal route to get it corrected.

Covid-19 arrives…

It’s November 2019. Two months later the pandemic breaks out. On 23 March 2020, the first lockdown is decreed in the UK: within a few weeks, advertisers suspend advertising campaigns. The station’s revenues plummet by 70 per cent, but the radio station cannot suspend broadcasts, temporarily shutting down as companies do. It performs a public service and the law obliges it not to interrupt it, even if it is forced to work at a loss (the state subsidies are not enough to get it back on its feet). However, the legal process is still long: it ends in November 2020.

…and they also cut the power

On the MB21 site, created by Mike Brown, we found a photo of the old malt factory that housed Gravity FM's antennas
On the MB21 site, created by Mike Brown, we found a photo of the old malt factory that housed Gravity FM’s antennas
Source

As if that weren’t enough (it’s April 2021), the radio station learns that the Malting, the old malting factory in the town that houses the transmitter and antennas on its roof (52 metres high), is being decommissioned. The frantic search for an alternative begins: lighting the city is not easy, due to orography problems. And then the regulations on transmitter sites have recently changed: there is uncertainty and building owners do not feel up to hosting new antennas. In January 2022 comes the warning that the power cut is scheduled for the end of February. The last days of the search are feverish. But the contractors get on with the job and… remove the power cables weeks in advance, shutting down the signal. Radio throws in the towel. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)

UK: NO FM SWITCH-OFF UNTIL AT LEAST 2030

 NO FM SWITCH-OFF UNTIL AT LEAST 2030
In the media ministry’s report on new rules for smart speakers, the future of radio is also discussed with predictions for the next ten years
Source

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.

UK: BBC shuts down ten more local Medium Wave radio stations

BBC ad alerts listeners to medium-wave shutdown and shows how to inquire about listening alternatives
BBC ad alerts listeners to medium-wave shutdown and shows how to inquire about listening alternatives
Source

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.

UK: The 80s atmosphere of London pirate radio stations comes back to life

London pirate radios
Ten years of London life are reinterpreted through advertisements aired on pirate radio stations
Source

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

On the site of the record label Death Is Not The End you can listen to excerpts from the two CDs, available for £ 8 each
Source

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.

UK: Will Bauer get permission for converting Absolute into Greatest Hits?

Will Bauer get permission for converting Absolute into Greatest Hits?
Absolute Radio broadcasts on 105.8 MHz FM and can be received in the Greater London area.
Source

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

Ofcom regulates radio, TV, video on demand, fixed and cellular telephony, postal services and the spectrum in which wireless devices operate
Source

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

Greatest Hits Radio, born in September 2020, is the most important network in the UK
Source

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?

UK: Radio for Baby Boomers to start on February 14

February 14 starts broadcasting radio for the Baby Boomer generation
Boom Radio is scheduled to officially begin broadcasting on February 14, 2021, but can already be received online at this address
Source

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.

UK: How much energy is consumed to transmit and listen to BBC radios?

Is analog FM more energy efficient than Dab? Does it consume more electricity to transmit or receive programs? In the UK now have the answers
Is analog FM more energy efficient than DAB? Does it consume more electricity to transmit or receive programs? In the UK they now have the answers
Source

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.

A similar study on the impact of television was published in September can be read here
A similar study on the impact of television was published in September 2020 and can be read here
Source

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.

Translate »