Multiplex Movements

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.

Making Changes

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.

Next stages

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.

9 thoughts on “Multiplex Movements

  1. andrewp

    Matt – This latest news is a huge letdown. After so many delays, we now have a very limited proposal for a stripped down service for Gloucestershire, that leaves us with just one transmitter, and only one local service from the BBC….what’s the difference from FM for us in this county?
    At least you acknowledge the less than ideal pairing with Herefordshire & Worcestershire….but the track record in recent years about the (lack of) progress in delivering DAB services for Gloucestershire leaves me with absolutely no confidence that you will deliver on splitting this paired arrangement or adding more services….
    It’s a dogs dinner and here in Gloucestershire we are left with:
    1. Just one transmitter, and alledgedly Stroud, Cirencester & Icomb Hill “to follow”….can we really have any confidence in that statement…? And no sign that the Forest of Dean will get any service at any time…
    2. Only one Gloucestershire service…from the BBC.
    3. A single area “solution” that ties us in with Herefordshire & Worcestershire, whereas we look to Bristol rather than north.
    A shambolic outcome, and no amount of “spin” and management speak can cover up what must be a huge embaressment for Muxco.

    1. matt Post author

      Hi Andrew,

      MuxCo makes the most money if we run two multiplexes with a full complement of stations. Unfortunately we can’t conjure stations out of thin air. We’ve tried to develop a plan that makes the multiplex financially viable to launch (rather than yet more delays) so we can create a platform that makes people want to put new and existing stations on there. Enhanced coverage is important to attract stations to the multiplex, but I can’t promise that every area and especially low population, hard to cover areas, will be able to be reached.

      I can understand why these announcements don’t work for you and I’m sorry that, at least in the short term, we’re probably not going to be able to satisfy you with any answers.

      MuxCo will only be commercially successful if we have a network people can hear and stations on there that pay their carriage fees. We feel, at the moment, that this is the best plan to kick start that process.

  2. Phil

    Hi Matt, thanks for the update. What’s happening with North Yorkshire? Is it likely to launch in the near future or is this on the back burner so to speak??

  3. Andy, Cranleigh

    Interesting new proposal for Surrey and Sussex. I am looking forward to hearing BBC Surrey and County Sound on my DAB Radio from 2011. Presumably, such “split” DAB services would necessitate a Sussex frequency change from 11B if Sussex service goes countywide…. to avoid interference with London 3 transmissions from Guildford and Reigate. 10B for Surrey and 10C for Sussex could be the answer.

  4. Mark

    Hi Matt

    Following Ofcom’s publication of their local DAB consultation document (22 June) are you now able to give us any more news on when your multiplexes will launch please?

  5. Peter

    I’ve been anticipating the arrival of a local DAB service in Surrey for a long time now. We know about the current hurdles faced with Offcom and the consultation document, but I begin to doubt the feasibility of adding many extra local services to our area. My point being that our close proximity to London means we are already served (as neighbours or guests) to an array of stations serving the London area already. Is there really any financial incentive to add services in Surrey when London is so close, especially during the current economic background? Apart from BBC Surrey, Eagle 96.4 and County Sound what else? We lost Mercury FM to Heart and the 1521AM service of Gold was shut down.

  6. roger gibbs

    Hi matt
    I live in Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds in the village of bourton on the water.
    We have to use mW to listen to radio glos as FM is so poor . icomb hill is so close and yet no news on dab .when do we get dab

    1. Matt Post author

      We’re currently in the process of launching Wrexham, Chester and Liverpool. Gloucester is next on the list, so we hope to have some news at the beginning of 2013.


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