SSDAB Rollout Survey

Given the very serious challenges that we are almost certain to face for the foreseeable future, the Community Media Association (CMA) is undertaking a short survey to gauge opinion on whether it would be sensible for Ofcom to postpone the start of the small-scale DAB (SSDAB) licensing programme.

Whilst many parties have anticipated progressing the new licensing framework as quickly as possible, the CMA now seeks to survey the views of our members and the wider sector on whether it would be sensible for Ofcom to consider postponing the rollout of SSDAB.

The current health crisis is likely to create considerable logistical difficulties for current licensees and the CMA would presume that community radio stations will want to keep focused on meeting the challenges of the next few months and serving their communities.

It is likely that both human and financial resources will be stretched enough without having to think about applying for new licences, negotiate carriage with multiplex operators, and so on. If this is the case, there is a risk that prospective broadcasters on SSDAB may miss their opportunity to apply for a digital licence and might have to wait some time for another invitation to come around.

Please complete the short survey below for the CMA to take forward to Ofcom:

https://shorturl.at/rDMW6

The survey was launched on 18th March and we have received 35 responses so far. We will keep this survey open for more responses.

To the question of:

“Do you think that Ofcom should postpone the rollout of small-scale DAB?”, 24 responses (68.6%) were not in favour and 11 responses (31.4%) were in favour.

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For those in favour of postponing, most were in favour of a delay of up to a year.

A selection of anonymised responses are as follows:

  • Resources both financial and personnel are going to be stretched at many stations during this crisis so SSDAB has rapidly dropped down the priorities.

  • They should release the plans and license information but give organisations extra time to submit applications. We’re putting all our energy into sustaining the station, we do not have the capacity with staff, volunteers or money to look at SSDAB at the moment.

  • I don’t think this is beneficial to those already waiting 2 years for the Brexit delays and the various consultations. Now if they were to allow non-licence low powered - long term (micro stations) then this may be a good compromise

  • The show must go on and the mass hysteria must stop.

  • SSDAB is vital for potential small locally focused (potential) station operators, and is needed urgently around the UK.

One trial mux operator said the following:

For me, the biggest risk would be that for applications to be successful, providers would really need to have or be able to get all their ducks in a row reasonably quickly. For instance, if you need roof space that’s an email to the Council, if you need funding that’s an email to the funders; and I worry that in the present situation, those external entities are not going to be running at full capacity. This might cause some pain for applicants in this early window (although to be fair, those with the most problems are likely to be the initial 10 licensees - e.g. us!!). Also, and much more basically, many stations are going to be in survival mode and that’s probably not a fair representation of what they’d be capable of if they weren’t so piled on.

Another trial mux operator holds the opposite view to the above and thinks that licensing of small-scale DAB should proceed without delay.

The above findings have been sent to the Broadcast Licensing Team at Ofcom for their consideration. If the CMA receives subsequent responses to the survey then we will update Ofcom with those answers.

Thank you to all who responded to this survey.