The first permanent small-scale DAB network will launch in Tynemouth and South Shields this morning, marking a milestone in the UK’s radio landscape and the start of a small-scale revolution for local radio which is set to bring a huge expansion of local radio listening choice to listeners across the nation.
From 7am today (10 December) the new network, managed and operated by Teesside-based firm MUX ONE, will bring fourteen additional local commercial, community and specialist music radio services to listeners in Tynemouth and South Shields, with further services to be added in the coming weeks. The range of services newly available on DAB from today includes music stations, Dance Revolution and xRhythms; LGBT+ services, Pride Radio and GlitterBeam; mental health and well-being service, The Angel; and stations dedicated to Shields and County Durham, Radio Shields and Durham On Air [See Notes to Editors – 1].
Welcoming the landmark launch, Media Minister Julia Lopez, said: “Local radio stations provide a vital service to communities across the UK and we want to help them fully embrace new technology and innovation. This new DAB network means greater choice of high-quality shows for listeners in the North East. And it marks a major moment for the radio industry as well by giving the region’s dedicated commercial and community stations the chance to reach ever wider audiences.”
All services will broadcast in DAB+, an upgraded and more efficient version of DAB that enables a greater number of stations to be broadcast. Listeners can confirm if they are in coverage of the new network by checking their postcode at www.getdigitalradio.com and may need to retune their digital radio to receive the stations for the first time [See Notes to Editors – 2].
Small-scale DAB is an innovative broadcasting technology pioneered by Ofcom which provides a low-cost way for local commercial, community and specialist music services to be broadcast digitally [See Notes to Editors – 3]. The launch of the Tynemouth and South Shields multiplex follows an extensive 6-year programme of work by Ofcom, trialling and planning the new local infrastructure and licencing regime, and is the first service to launch of the 25 licences awarded in the first round of awards which has the potential to see the launch of over 500 new local radio stations [See Notes to Editors – 4].
Ofcom will award a second round of small-scale DAB licences in early 2022, with six further rounds of awards planned in due course. In total all eight rounds of the small-scale DAB programme will see the launch of approximately 200 multiplexes, collectively covering all of the UK’s four nations, and each carrying a diverse range of community and small commercial radio services, some existing analogue services and some completely new, ranging from grass-roots community services to boutique specialist music stations, and services aimed at minority groups and other under-served audiences.
Philip Marnick, Group Director Spectrum, Ofcom, said: “Small-scale DAB really is a revolution for local radio. The technology makes it cheaper and easier for local community stations to take to the digital airwaves, meaning listeners can access a wider choice of ultra-local content than ever before. We’re delighted that communities in the North East will be the first to benefit from the new stations available on MUX ONE.”
Dave Roberts, Director, MUX ONE, said: “Being first in anything is very special and we are so proud to be able to help lead the way. It is fantastic to see how small-scale DAB has been embraced by smaller independent stations, and across Tynemouth and South Shields we have seen the platform give birth to many new radio stations. MUX ONE’s new service will broadcast to over 400,000 people bringing with it huge choice and diversity to North East radio sets. New stations include services focussing on the elderly and senior, LGBT+, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, as well as football fan stations and a host of new commercial music stations, including national radio services that currently cannot broadcast to the region. The new system has already proven itself in terms of bringing huge choice.”
Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK, said: “The launch of the first permanent ultra-local DAB network is an important milestone and this programme could help transform the provision of local commercial and community radio in the UK, with hundreds of new stations and new voices coming to air and connecting with local communities and audiences. It is great news for local radio listeners, and Ofcom and DCMS should be congratulated for their pioneering work in developing small-scale DAB. We wish MUX ONE and their exciting range of ultra-local stations well for the launch in Tynemouth and South Shields.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The full listing of services available on the Tynemouth and South Shields multiplex: Angel Radio; Durham On Air; Dance Revolution; Frisk Radio; Nation Radio UK; Nation 70s; Nation 80s; Nation 90s; GlitterBeam Radio; Pride Radio; Sun FM Radio; xRhythms; The Angel; Radio Shields. From its transmission site in Cleadon the multiplex will serve listeners in the towns of North Shields, South Shields, Whitley Bay, the Boldons, Jarrow, as well as East Newcastle & Gateshead and North Sunderland.
- To listen to DAB+ services listeners will need a DAB+ enabled digital radio. Whilst many older DAB digital radios will only receive DAB stations, the majority of new devices can receive DAB+ stations as well as DAB, and there are lots of DAB/DAB+ radios available. Most new radios available to buy now are DAB+ compatible but to make sure look for the Digital Tick Mark on packaging or check the product specification. Virtually all cars pre-fitted with a DAB radio will also receive DAB+. Retuning a DAB/DAB+ digital radio is a simple process. Simply press the auto tune or auto scan button or go to the menu and press auto tune. If this does not locate all services, then listeners are recommended to run a full scan. More information can be found at: www.getdigitalradio.com/retune.
- Small-scale DAB uses advances in software and low-cost computer technology to provide a flexible and inexpensive approach to the terrestrial broadcast of digital radio services to a relatively small geographic area. In the UK, the concept was first tested by Ofcom engineer Rashid Mustapha in 2012 and subsequently the Government funded a series of trials, licensed and facilitated by Ofcom, to test the feasibility of the technology. The trials demonstrated that small-scale DAB can provide a robust and reliable means for small analogue stations to broadcast on digital, as well as for entrants wishing to launch new radio services on a digital terrestrial platform.
- Ofcom is advertising licences for small-scale DAB in eight batches – or ‘Rounds’ – and started with Round One comprised of 25 local areas across the UK. All licences for Round One have been awarded and applications for Round Two, covering North West of England and North East Wales, have been announced. Round Three licences will be advertised in the coming weeks. More information on the licensing process and roll out of small-scale DAB is available here.