Ofcom sets out licensing plans for small-scale DAB radio

07 April 2020

Local radio listeners will be able to tune into new digital stations following measures announced by Ofcom today.

Ofcom is setting out how we will license small-scale DAB, an innovative technology which will provide a low-cost route for local commercial, community and specialist music stations to take to the digital airwaves.

Pioneered in the UK by an Ofcom engineer, small-scale DAB uses freely available software and computer technology to transmit digital radio services and broadcast to a relatively small geographic area. It allows stations to use inexpensive equipment to get on air for far less money than was previously possible.

Small-scale DAB will expand local digital radio coverage and ensure that listeners will be able to tune into a diverse range of radio services across the UK, on the Digital Audio Broadcasting platform which now accounts for 40% of the UK’s radio listening.

Small-scale DAB is making it cheaper and easier for local stations to get on the digital airwaves, which will give more choice to listeners up and down the country.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Content Group Director

How Ofcom will license small-scale DAB

We will advertise licences for small-scale DAB in batches, starting with 25 local areas across the UK,  including five where trials are already underway. The second round will be for north west England and northeast Wales.

Community radio applications, in the form of the new Community Digital Sound Programme (‘C-DSP’) licences, will open for each local area at the same time as the publication of multiplex licence advertisements.

Small-scale trials prove successful

Ofcom has been running trials of small-scale DAB to test the technology and prove its ability to allow existing small stations – as well as new services – to broadcast cost-effectively on digital radio. The following stations are among those who have taken part in the trial.

Skylab Radio

Skylab Radio is a music-driven radio station playing chillout, lounge, ambient, downtempo and soft house music.

Strawberry Radio

Strawberry Radio is named after 10cc’s recording studio in Stockport. It plays hits from the last five decades, as well as new music and showcasing local talent.

Cosoro Radio

Cosoro Radio is an Afrobeat station based in Manchester. It can be accessed via small-scale DAB in Manchester, Glasgow, Norwich & Portsmouth.

Solar Radio

Solar Radio is a specialist soul music station broadcasting soul, jazz and blues. It has been part of small-scale DAB trials since the outset.