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UK to community radio: sign up for a digital experiment

Ofcom_logo-600x300The United Kingdom’s broadcast regulator has announced trials to help smaller, community based radio stations access the UK’s digital audio broadcasting (DAB) system. According to Ofcom, nearly half of adults in the UK (48.9 percent) say they own a DAB radio set. But getting access to a DAB “digital multiplex” service area is expensive; most smaller radio stations can’t afford the price of admission.

Now Ofcom is experimenting with a new approach that it thinks will be cheaper, because it accesses free software from opendigitalradio.org. The method is called “small scale DAB.” It targets small geographic areas, “ideal for community and local radio stations,” Ofcom says.

Ofcom has ten trials planned, each of which will run for nine months. “Each trial will allow new digital radio services to broadcast to a local area and will help explore how groups of radio stations can work together,” the announcement continues. “The trials will also inform Ofcom’s work on identifying suitable frequencies for broadcasting smaller digital stations and help understand how these services could be licensed.”

The deadline for applying for one of the tryouts is April 7.

Meanwhile Ofcom has announced bids for a second national, commercial DAB multiplex. The first is operated by Digital One. The hope is to launch number two in 2016. The agency says it has received applications from Listen2Digital and Sound Digital.

I have to admit that I’m liking the 18 stations proposed by Listen2Digital, which include a Sabras Asian contemporary channel and a Wireless oldies channel (of course I’m not making this call; it’s all up to the Brits and their duly appointed representatives; I’m just saying . . . ).


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