Applications for Round One of small-scale DAB (SSDAB) licensing closed at 5pm on Monday 23rd November.
The areas up for licensing were:
Alnwick & Morpeth; Basingstoke; Derry/Londonderry; Bradford; Cambridge; Cardiff; Clevedon, Avonmouth & Filton; Dudley & Stourbridge; East Bristol; Mangotsfield & Keynsham; Edinburgh; Exeter; Glasgow; Inverclyde; Isles of Scilly; Kings Lynn; Leeds; Newcastle & Gateshead; North Birmingham; Norwich; Salisbury; Sheffield & Rotherham; South Birmingham; Tynemouth & South Shields; Welsh valleys; Winchester
Applications were invited from 1st September, and one of the first consortia to declare their hand was Leeds DAB Radio which includes Fever FM. Nation Broadcasting invited expressions of interest in Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle, Exeter, and Edinburgh.
In the midst of this activity, the Portsmouth DAB multiplex celebrated their 5th birthday with a live stream on Facebook. And in August, it was announced that DAB radio would be fitted as standard in all new passenger cars. Optimux, a new cloud-based control panel to manage small-scale DAB multiplexes was launched in September.
A consortium between a commercial radio station and two community radio stations, Phonic FM and Riviera FM, announced that it was bidding for the Exeter multiplex. In addition, we have recently learned that ExeDAB has received 30 expressions of interest.
Bradford Digital Media announced its intention to apply for the multiplex licence in the city.
In October, a bid was announced from a consortium that includes community radio station Penistone FM, for the Sheffield & Rotherham multiplex. That was followed in short order by Shefcast – a collaboration between community radio stations Sheffield Live, Link FM, and Red Road Radio - declaring its hand for the same South Yorkshire multiplex.
It was Birmingham’s turn next to raise its hand to announce that South Birmingham DAB Ltd, which includes community radio station Unity FM, would be making a bid for the South Birmingham mux. BFBS and Nation Broadcasting declared that they would combine forces to bid for the licence for Salisbury.
Later in October, Radio Cardiff announced that it would be a partner in Cardiff DAB Ltd, a private company which is pitching to operate in the city. And another private group announced that it would bid for Edinburgh multiplex.
We learned of a bid for the East Bristol multiplex licence from community radio stations Bradley Stoke Radio, Ujima Radio, and BCfm. And Bradley Stoke Radio also leads a consortium of community broadcasters applying for the licence for ‘East Bristol’. These stations will own the licence and infrastructure and employ a private company, Muxnet, to manage the mux and sell spare capacity.
A similar approach has been adopted for a bid for the Welsh valleys multiplex led by GTFM (a registered charity) also representing Rhondda Radio and a new C-DSP station, Merthyr Radio with the coverage designed to embrace three community radio coverage areas. Operation and maintenance of the multiplex will be contracted to UK DAB Networks.
Additionally, in the North-East region the CMA has learned of a partnership between four community radio stations that are pitching for the Newcastle licence – we wish them well.
MUX ONE said that it would provide free carriage to community radio stations as part of its bid for the Tynemouth & South Shields licence.
Lastly, Nation Broadcast has declared that it has submitted applications as itself and in partnership with other groups across the country. A new consultancy, UK DAB Networks, led by Ash Elford who has been running the Portsmouth trial multiplex has applied for licences in 5 locations. Both companies have announced that they will provide free slots for C-DSP licensees.
It is expected that Ofcom will publish the non-confidential sections of the licence applications within 3-4 weeks. In the meantime, some applications for C-DSP licences have already been published on the Ofcom website.
The CMA wishes all community-led bids for multiplex licences every success with their applications and we wish the best of luck to all community radio groups applying for SSDAB licences.