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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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
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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
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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
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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: 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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

UK: High Court of Justice silences TuneIn

The Lexology website has published the ruling of the High Court of Justice explaining it in detail
The Lexology website has published the ruling of the High Court of Justice explaining it in detail
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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.

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