More small-scale DAB licences awarded by regulator

Media regulator Ofcom has awarded small-scale digital radio multiplex licences for four areas in England and Wales.

The latest awards follow the first group of licences which were awarded in February.

Small-scale DAB licences allow operators to install transmitters and launch a multiplex covering a small area. Radio stations are able to join a multiplex to broadcast in that location.

The areas covered by the latest multiplexes to be awarded are Cambridge, Inverclyde, Sheffield & Rotherham and Winchester. They join Derry/Londonderry, Glasgow, Salisbury, Tynemouth & South Shields and Welsh Valleys.

Trials of small-scale DAB have been taking place around the UK for a few years with MPs starting to discuss the legislation in 2017. The multiplexes are intended to provide a low-cost way for community, specialist and small commercial radio stations to broadcast digitally. The trial multiplexes have typically included existing local community radio stations, small commercial stations and brand new digital stations.

Stations like Radio Caroline have been able to broadcast on DAB in parts of the UK in addition to their AM coverage in East Anglia. Some of the trial multiplexes carry 20 or more extra radio stations playing specific genres of music or providing programmes for particular communities. The majority of radio stations on small-scale DAB multiplexes are using DAB+.

In Cambridge the operator of the small-scale trial has been awarded a full-time licence. Areas like Tynemouth & South Shields will receive the extra small-scale services for the first time.

Ofcom is awarding the licences through a competitive process with more than 20 areas included in the first round. The regulator says more licences will be awarded in the coming weeks.

The next round of licence advertisements will cover areas in North West England and North East Wales. Many parts of the UK will eventually be covered by the new multiplexes.