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Nuvistor
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Launched today in the NE of England, I just wonder how many stations can prosper in a very crowded market. The technology is listed here.

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/44808/software-dab-research.pdf

The press release here.

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/news-centre/2021/digital-technology-switch-on-brings-new-radio-choices?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Weekly%20publications%20update%2010%20December%202021&utm_content=Weekly%20publications%20update%2010%20December%202021+CID_b125b42e85b58dd3ee279fae779a22b5&utm_source=updates&utm_term=Small-scale%20DAB%20multiplex%20launch

Hats off to the skill of the person or persons responsible for the technology.

 

 

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Topic starter Posted : 10/12/2021 7:08 pm
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Alex728
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Most smaller radio stations nowadays (just about) survive/exist rather than prosper - that said, the running cost may not be a great deal more (or similar) to existing infrastructure for community radio or renting servers for online streaming (the cost of which increases as a station becomes more popular!) - the tech team at Ipswich Community Radio and Felixstowe Radio are eagerly awaiting small scale DAB to be available in Suffolk.. 

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Posted : 10/12/2021 11:33 pm
Pye Man
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There is a ‘Birmingham’ SSDAB transmitter. Its coverage is pitiful. It is located on the east side of the city – I would guess on one of the tower bocks in Castle Vale – and the signal barely makes it to the city centre. Although on reasonably high gound and not so very far from the city boundary it is unreceivable here. It carries Caroline which would have been useful, though Caroline’s recent increase of power (from 1 to 4kW) on 648 means I get adequate reception (and something to listen to on my vintage sets!). There is little else on the Tx that warrants me pointing a beam at it.

Outside of the niches, serving a particular ethnic group, etc., , small commercial stations seem to exist on a diet of chart oldies and wannabe smashy and nicey DJs and sometimes barely any presenters at all. Programming that you can find all over DAB and FM.

Commercial radio is in something of a race to the bottom. With deregulation the ILR stations have been absorbed into national stations which have taken every opportunity to remove local programming to cut operating costs to the minimum. A rotation of a couple of hundred records, ads, and a few daytime DJs and away you go. But even in the good old days, before the amount of TV channels and opportunities for advertising there is today, ILR stations, especially those outside of the big conurbations, often operated on a knife-edge. I think the ILR station serving Leicester was one of the first to go bust.

However, viability of small stations has been marginal for years. About twenty years ago I made the acquaintance of a guy who did a weekly show on a small commercial station. The station served towns in an area outside of the large metropolitan areas and had a good local prominence and feel, plenty of local advertising and decent transmission coverage, with its only local competition being the BBC LR station based in the county town about twenty miles away. The show was a bit specialist (music) but had a reasonable audience with lots of feedback and I occasionally helped him out with research. I was a little surprised to find that back then that he received no payment and it was a labour of love. He told me that the daytime presenters were part-timers who did other jobs out of the industry. I’d guess the only full-time member of staff was the lady that ran the office.

The void vacated by the the ILRs and stations like the one above is now being taken up by community stations. The only way a local station in a small town can be viable and provide community interest programming and OBs is with enthusiastic volunteers. I listen to a couple out of my area that also stream on the net as they are a source of interesting specialist programming. The presentation may not be slick but the presenters are knowledgeable and the cover genres that the BBC has largely removed from its schedules.

The radio industry has become polarised. At the one end there are BBC DJs on over £1m per year and at the other, relatively lowly paid, part-timers and volunteers with a large void in between. Nevertheless, there seem no shortage of small operations who want to have a go. I guess it’s the romance of being ‘on the radio’.

I do wonder whether the US-style member-supported NPR model would be viable over here. The nearest we have to that model is the rather unique Caroline. Interestingly, Caroline had their application for 10kW turned down by Ofcom. I wonder what they were/are afraid of?

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Posted : 11/12/2021 3:45 pm
Nuvistor
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@pye-man 

Attached the coverage map of the trials of SSDAB in Birmingham.

It appears they had a trial in Manchester but I would have been well out of its area. My feelings that like TV we have quantity over quality, I listen to a couple of radio stations, both National that suit me, I have looked at others in the past and for me just don’t suit. 

One thing it may do is give up and coming broadcast personnel the chance to gain knowledge and progress to larger stations.

 

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0023/91418/Birmingham.pdf

 

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Topic starter Posted : 11/12/2021 4:28 pm
Alex728
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Posted by: @pye-man

I do wonder whether the US-style member-supported NPR model would be viable over here. The nearest we have to that model is the rather unique Caroline. Interestingly, Caroline had their application for 10kW turned down by Ofcom. I wonder what they were/are afraid of?

Perhaps Ofcom was lobbied by trade associations of broadcasters on the Continent? Caroline's signal travels quite well across the North Sea and judging by listeners emails is popular in the Netherlands and Germany -  its core listeners are nowadays open minded, well educated middle aged folk of fairly high net worth, which just about every broadcaster in Europe wants in their audience- and unlike the BBC's previous use of the allocation, Caroline is a commercial broadcaster...

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Posted : 11/12/2021 8:44 pm
Pye Man
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As I understand it Caroline is not a commercial operator as such but has a ‘Community of Interest’ licence which allows it to serve a particular community that is not necessarily geographically based. Thus uperating under a community licence there is a limit to how much ‘profit’ the station is allowed make from advertising.

Higher power might bring in more listeners who are prepared to join the support group and this might bring more of a return than advertising. The programming is fairly niche and the current advertising also. I don’t hear adverts for septic tanks or classic car steering boxes on any other station!

Interestingly, outside of Radio 3, most stations I listen to these days are NPR (I have a membership with a US station), community or online like Serenade Radio (I contribute to Caroline and Serenade.).

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Posted : 12/12/2021 11:32 am
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Alex728
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Most community radio stations are run as a CIC (Community Interest Company) which allows them to get some revenue from commercial operations - this arrangement is used for a lot of other organisations other than radio stations such as support and advice centres, community arts projects etc - though as you mention there is a hard limit on radio ad revenues (which few community station hit unless they go for very mainstream programming!) I don't think any of the rules (from Ofcom or CIC Regulator) explicitly forbid NPR style funding, and its usually possible and welcomed to donate to community radio stations (or CICs in general)  

I've heard similar advertisers (building supplies, car repair garages) on Dutch "pirate" radio stations (which are nowadays increasingly not pirates at all but allocated short term licences by Agentschap Telecom) - given that Dutch folk have very good English skills and there is a history of Caroline aiming for listeners in both countries there is a chance NL may concerned about competition; Caroline is also an outlier amongst UK community radio stations inasmuch that it can fairly easily be received outside the country via analogue means (I'm not sure of any other stations in this position!)

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Posted : 12/12/2021 7:57 pm
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Alex728
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There's been an article published in the local news about the power increase (aimed at a "normal" audience rather than radio enthusiasts/anoraks!)

https://www.suffolknews.co.uk/bury-st-edmunds/news/former-pirate-radio-station-goes-back-to-its-am-roots-9230418/

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Posted : 14/12/2021 4:32 pm
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Cathovisor
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Posted by: @alex728

There's been an article published in the local news about the power increase (aimed at a "normal" audience rather than radio enthusiasts/anoraks!)

https://www.suffolknews.co.uk/bury-st-edmunds/news/former-pirate-radio-station-goes-back-to-its-am-roots-9230418/

From that article:

"there is 'method in the madness' to increasing its AM frequency."

<fx: shakes head>

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Posted : 14/12/2021 7:43 pm
Pye Man
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@cathovisor 

Well it does when it borrows the Manx Tx on 1368!

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Posted : 14/12/2021 7:53 pm
Cathovisor
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I have to say that recently reception in my car has been dreadful, but I think that may have more to do with the car's radio/antenna arrangement than anything else - LW is particularly terrible.

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Posted : 14/12/2021 8:15 pm
Pye Man
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My current and last car are the same model and although I had the last one six years or so the current one is only a year younger (it’s in its twentieth year). The previous one had a factory fitted radio and was excellent on all bands. I quite often used to listen to RTE on 252, Radio Wales on 882 and Radio Hereford & Worcester on 738 though not in the service area of any of them. I remember listening to cricket on 738 near Weston-super-Mare – I suspect Caroline on 648 wouldn’t be a problem.

The current car came with an aftermarket all singing all dancing set plus CD player. AM reception is abysmal.

I picked up a cheap DAB adapter from Aldi a while back. As lockdown has meant for the first time since I owned a car my annual mileage is in the hundreds I haven’t bothered fitting it. (It would probably double the value of the car if I did... 🙂 )

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Posted : 14/12/2021 10:40 pm
Nuvistor
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@pye-man 

I don’t know if my car as MW on the radio, had the car 4 years and never looked, it as DAB+ and FM but usually used on DAB.

Not sure if I should admit to that. 😕 

 

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Topic starter Posted : 14/12/2021 11:56 pm
Alex728
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My previous VW Polo and the current one I drive both have AM/FM/DAB(+), not sure if they have LW but I only use AM for Caroline. Reception is quite decent on all bands, last night I was able to monitor the Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk MUXes from Mid Suffolk (not sure if this was also due to a slight tropo lift)

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Posted : 15/12/2021 4:59 pm
Pye Man
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I thought that the aftermarket set in my car only did MW but discovered when scrolling down through MW frequencies it jumped to LW so the single AM setting covers the two bands.

I used to use AM for 5 Live but haven’t listened to that for yonks. I’m not far from Droitwich so 693 comes in well on the deafest of receivers. (I limit my exposure to news these days – it is bad for the spirit.)

My barometer is right up so there could be a bit of tropo about. I did scan old ARRL books for 220MHz beam designs but DAB Dx has little appeal when you’re only going to get pretty much the same stations from another MUX.

 

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Posted : 15/12/2021 7:51 pm
Alex728
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Just checked mine and AM is only the standard MW allocation (there is also a note on the Volkswagen UK website to use what I think are the 5 Live MW frequencies if you want to listen to cricket)

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Posted : 16/12/2021 11:39 pm
WayneD
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Both our old car (a 2002 Mercedes C-Class) and current "main" car (a 2008 Mercedes C-Class) are amazingly good at MW, LW and SW! Yes, there are cars out there that have Shortwave.  Managed to pick up numbers stations and a pirate station on Shortwave. Most days I can pick up Caroline from Northumberland.

One bonus is when stuck in traffic you can put it on 108.0 FM and listen to what other people are listening to on their dodgy Bluetooth to FM adapters!

The car I use for getting to and from work (a rusty 2007 Peugeot 107) is terrible at MW. 

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Posted : 25/12/2021 2:03 pm
Cathovisor
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@wayned 

Many years ago my 2004 BMW 5-series had a software update and I was amazed to discover that it was now (in theory)  capable of short wave reception, according to the iDrive menu. I have never found a single SW station on it though and in fact its LW reception is very poor too so whether it's the computer module that contains the radio or the aerial multiplexer at fault (the aerials are embedded in the rear windscreen) I have no idea.

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Posted : 26/12/2021 5:42 pm
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WayneD
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@cathovisor our 2002 Mercedes C-Class and indeed the 1998 C-Class and 1994 C-Class we had previously all had the antenna in the rear windscreen. However our 2008 C-Class has a "shark fin" antenna and seems to have the best reception out of all of them. 

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Posted : 26/12/2021 10:32 pm
Cathovisor
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@wayned There's a "shark fin" on my car (which I think are made by Hirschmann) but it's only for a telephone or telematics system.

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Posted : 26/12/2021 10:48 pm