Radio broadcast desk

148 stations hit the digital airwaves thanks to local radio revolution

Published: 16 November 2022
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Almost a year since the launch of the first small-scale DAB multiplex in Tynemouth and South Shields, 148 stations are now broadcasting across the UK, increasing choice for local listeners.

Small-scale DAB is an innovative technology which provides a low-cost way for local commercial, community and specialist radio stations to broadcast on digital radio.

Some of the brand-new local interest stations serving their communities are Salisbury Radio, Winchester Today, Rother Radio (Sheffield & Rotherham), Radio West Norfolk (King’s Lynn) and Central Radio (Blackpool).

Not-for-profit community stations that were previously only able to broadcast on AM or FM have also begun broadcasting on digital. These include Radio Cardiff, Drive 105 (Derry/Londonderry), Radio Tyneside, Cambridge 105, Switch Radio (Birmingham), Black Country Radio, Future Radio (Norwich) and Akash Radio (Leeds).

Stations aimed at minority groups and other under-served audiences are also taking advantage of small-scale DAB. These include Gorgeous Radio (broadcasting to the LGBT+ community in several different areas), Spice Radio, which serves the local Asian community in the north-east of England, Birmingham-based student radio station Scratch Radio, and Celtic Music Radio in Glasgow and Edinburgh, for those with an interest in contemporary and traditional Scottish music and culture.

And we’ve seen a range of specialist music services taking to the air offering dance, soul, Afrobeat, album rock, easy listening, nostalgia and alternative music.

How Ofcom helps these stations get on the air

Small-scale DAB stations are transmitted from a multiplex (a digital radio transmission service). Several stations can be broadcast from each multiplex.

Multiplexes are licensed by Ofcom. We have made licence awards to 59 small-scale radio multiplexes so far, and 20 of these are up and running, bringing more radio to local listeners.

We are running our small-scale DAB multiplex licensing programme in rounds. And we have just completed the third round of licensing with awards covering Milton Keynes, Rutland and Stamford, Swindon and Marlborough, Wetherby and Harrogate, and the Yorkshire Coast.

More stations in more areas are set to come on air later this year and during 2023. We are currently assessing multiplex applications received in 24 of our Round Four licence areas. In Spring 2023, we will open applications for Round Five which will include London and the south-east of England.

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