Birmingham’s dynamic digital radio market was celebrated at a special event attended by the city’s leading figures from BBC, commercial and community radio, which took place at Hotel LaTour in Birmingham (Wednesday 3 May).
Over 100 radio industry practitioners attended the event, Doing the DAB: Birmingham, where they heard that radio listening is more popular than ever in Birmingham thanks to the success of digital radio with 70 stations now available in the city. Speakers at the event included two of the city’s leading radio presenters, Caroline Martin, lunchtime host of BBC West Midlands and Ed James, host of Heart West Midlands’ Heart Breakfast with Ed & Gemma.
They were joined by a sterling line up from across the Birmingham radio scene including Rupert Upshon, BBC West Midlands; Graham Bryce, Bauer City Network; Mike Newman, Free Radio; Brett Spencer, BBC Asian Network; Matt Deegan, MuxCo; David Timpson, RTÉ; Dean Kavanagh, the Birmingham DAB mini-mux; radio historian David Lloyd; Phil Stuchfield, Jaguar Land Rover; Amy Southall, Midlands Officer, Student Radio Association; and Ford Ennals, Digital Radio UK.
Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK, said: “It’s tremendous to see the excitement and growth in the Birmingham radio market from all sectors. The growing popularity of digital radio in Birmingham and the launch of many new DAB stations is helping to create a new golden age for radio listeners.”
The event heard that capacity for further new DAB stations in Birmingham is now fully utilised and MuxCo’s Matt Deegan called for Ofcom to create a second local DAB multiplex for Birmingham and David Timpson confirmed RTÉ Radio’s interest in launching services in the UK, including Birmingham, to serve the Irish Diaspora.
Matt Deegan, Creative Director, MuxCo, said: "Birmingham is a thriving media market and its current multiplex is full. It is unfair that whilst London has three local multiplexes offering a fantastic array of stations, Birmingham has just one city-wide multiplex. A second multiplex would open up competition for local businesses and provide listeners with a fresh variety of new services."
David Timpsom, RTÉ Radio, said: “The small-scale DAB initiative in the UK has been one of the most refreshing developments in the last number of years,and RTÉ is working with Ofcom to meet regulatory requirements which would allow us launch a radio service in the UK via the small-scale muxes, including Birimingham. In addition RTÉ Radio is currently exploring the possibility of trialling the technology and model in Ireland.”
Gareth Roberts, Chair of Radio Academy Birmingham, said: “Birmingham is one of the most dynamic radio markets in the UK and this evening has shown the on-going appetite for continued innovation and growth from the city’s broadcasters.”
Total radio listening is growing steadily in Birmingham due to the growth in digitial listening which has doubled since 2010 and has off-set a 20% decline in analogue listening in the same period. Digital listening is 45.6% in Birmingham and DAB ownership is 65% - above the national averages.
Alongside over 40 nationally available stations, there are 11 stations on the local Birmingham DAB multiplex, including BBC Radio West Midlands, Heart West Midlands, Free Radio Birmingham, Free Radio 80s, Smooth West Midlands, Absolute Classic Rock, Absolute Radio 90s, Magic Soul, Capital, Gold and Kiss Fresh.
The city’s small-scale trial mini-mux,which is operated by Switch Digital, offers a further distinct range of 16 commercial and community stations, including Radio Central, serving the local Pakistani community; Angel Vintage, a station for the over 60s; and Unity FM, broadcasting to Birmingham’s Muslim community.
Dean Kavanagh, Director, Switch Radio, said: “We’re proud to have made our multiplex anything but “small” in terms of its aspirations. Our services cover a wide variety of styles that mirror the great diversity of our local community and a service from RTÉ serving Birmingham’s Irish community would be a fantastic and popular addition.”
Doing the DAB was produced by Digital Radio UK in collaboration with Radio Academy Midlands, Radio Today and Pure.