The news from Norway is that the country plans to dump FM and go all digital by 2017. The United Kingdom isn’t quite ready to do the same, but over fifty radio outlets have responded to the UK’s invitation to apply for a digital experiment for smaller broadcasters. Ofcom, Britain’s broadcast regulator, has announced trials to help smaller, local and community based radio stations access the UK’s digital audio broadcasting (DAB) system. The agency is working with an approach that it thinks will be more affordable to indie operations because it takes advantage of free software from opendigitalradio.org. The method is called “small scale DAB.” It targets smaller scale geographic areas, “ideal for community and local radio stations,” Ofcom says.
Among the 51 applicants: Dover Community Radio, Oldham Community Radio, Radio Scarborough, Seaside Radio East Kent, Bradford Asian Radio, Bright & Hove Radio, Chorely FM, Coventry and Warwickshire Media, University Radio York, Elastic FM of Derbyshire, and Riviera FM. There’s also Radiowey, which runs a radio service for the patients at Ashford and St. Peters Hospitals and Garrison.FM, “your online army station.”
Less conventional applicants include a broadcasting software company called P-Squared and Ringtone.net, which owns the SevernFM online radio network. Some applicants are already broadcasting on DAB contours, but presumably want to see if they can get in on smaller, more affordable DAB deals.
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,” an announcement for the project disclosed. “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.”