We’ve just updated the pages for our North Wales & West Cheshire multiplexes, our Gloucestershire and Herefordshire & Worcestershire multiplexes and our Surrey & Sussex multiplex.
We have requested to merge what was North East Wales & West Cheshire with what was North Wales to create a single multiplex. We have also requested to simulcast the same set of services on both the Herefordshire & Worcestershire and Gloucestershire multiplexes.
I just wanted to write a few lines outlining our thinking about this. With North Wales we were seeing that many of our service providers would be appearing on both multiplexes and that the westerly multiplex would always be hard to make economically viable on its own. There was also a disappointment that the westerly side would take a little longer time in getting around to. By merging these multiplexes we hope to fix some of these issues and give more of Wales DAB quicker than had been envisaged.
The simulcast of Herefordshire & Worcestershire and Gloucestershire was a harder decision to take especially as listeners in this area tend to look to different areas. We think that there will eventually be demand from service providers to fill both sides separately. However, at the moment (and with all the recent changes to stations in that area) it makes the multiplexes more viable to initially address these multiplexes as a single area. When demand increases, we will then be able to split the multiplexes into their two constituent parts.
We’ve also taken a look at the Surrey & Sussex multiplex and feel it would make more sense for Arqiva to increase their Sussex Coast multiplex to cover more of Sussex and for the MuxCo multiplex to better concentrate on Surrey. As this involves another party, there’s still some more work to be done before we can talk about the plans for these areas. That’s also reflected in its current line-up.
We’ve made these requests to Ofcom as part of their recent work on the future size and make-up of local digital radio multiplexes.
When the multiplexes were awarded, the radio environment was very different to what it is today. As a multiplex operator MuxCo works with different shareholder companies in each area, as well as maintaining a dialogue with the BBC and the local broadcasters about their thoughts and plans. We’ve always been big believers in digital radio, but it’s absolutely vital to have the agreement from shareholders and service providers before we can launch in each area. Were we to launch without this support, and with no tenants, the business would not last very long – it’s also unlikely that a new operator that would be able to succeed without this support as well. We’re genuinely trying to create something that’s sustainable in each area.
Where we are now is that our partners and service providers feel much more confident about the industry and their own future and many are keen that the multiplexes launch so they can grow and develop their businesses. We’ve therefore updated our line-up pages with our current thoughts about service providers for these first areas. An important caveat – these are not the confirmed and final line-ups – there will be some additions (and always the chance of removals as well) – but in the interests of being open – this is what we’re currently building our plans around. It’s also dependent, of course, on regulatory approval. If there’s a station that you think should be on one of the multiplexes, the best thing to do is ‘politely’ request to that station that it should be made available on DAB in that area.
There’s currently parallel activity going on. Whilst we’re waiting for approval from Ofcom for our changes we’re in the final operational planning stages with our transmission contractor so we can set a launch date for our first two multiplexes. We hope to announce some dates in the coming weeks.
We’re aware that all of this has been a long time coming and I have to say that we are as frustrated as you that it has taken so long. I can only apologise for the delays and hope that you will find this news and some of the forthcoming updates as being more positive.