Absolute Radio proposes to reduce AM coverage

National radio station Absolute Radio is proposing to reduce its coverage on AM.

Absolute Radio has been available on AM across the UK since April 1993, when it launched as Virgin Radio. The station’s 1197 kHz and 1215 kHz frequencies were originally used by BBC Radio 3.

The pop and rock music station has been available on DAB digital radio since 1999, as well as on digital television, satellite and online for many years.

Absolute Radio’s proposal would see coverage reduced from 90.5% of the UK adult population to 85.4%, taking effect from May 2018. It says it would achieve this by reducing the power at five transmitter sites and closing a further 12.

It says that it is making the proposal in the context of declining listening to AM radio and increasing transmission costs. The station notes that around 2.5 million of the 2.66 million adults it estimates would lose analogue AM coverage would be able to receive the same station using DAB digital radio.

If the station is unable to make these changes it says it may have to consider shutting down the entire AM network and surrendering its national licence.

Some countries have already seen a reduction of AM services. In Germany the public Deutschlandfunk service left mediumwave in 2015, while Radio France’s and RTÉ Radio 1’s medium wave services have ended.

Absolute Radio points out that the BBC is currently closing some local radio transmitters. Thirteen medium wave transmitters were scheduled for closure in January, affecting ten radio stations.

Ofcom, the media regulator, says it is minded to accept the proposals.

The UK has not yet seen a widespread departure from AM broadcasting. In the last few years new community radio stations have begun broadcasting on AM.