Two Is Better?

By Art Grainger
Posted 22 January 2015, 12.53am est

So the new "2" stations have launched in the North of England.

Of course, in Scotland, the concept of a Heritage Name "2" station on medium wave, with a sister "1" station on FM broadcasting to the same area and both stations cross-promoting each other, was somebody's bright idea that came about 26 YEARS AGO, yet it's still going.

I laugh out loud when I see the inhabitants of Planet Radio Forum say that the "2's" won't work, it's all stupid, the old brand was better and so on. According to radio forumites, the new 2’s will lose loads of listeners as a result of the changes, which would be a bit more convincing if it hadn’t been for the fact that the RAJAR’s for the local Magic stations showed that they didn’t have “loads of listeners” in the first place and that the Scottish Heritage Name “2” stations were performing better.

Scotland expanded the concept of "1's" and "2's" throughout the 90's, whilst England copied the idea for a couple of stations (owned by a different company) in more recent years, so I guess the 1 & 2 stations in Bradford and Stoke-on-Trent are also doomed to fail because calling them that is such a terrible idea, if you believe the forumites.

Like almost a quarter of the population of West Central Scotland I was a big fan of Clyde 2 for many years, until I heard changes to its output that took it away from it's friendly sound and occasional LOL moments, to become a brand-tastic, in-yer-ears tagline and slogan that was repeated to death, with the occasional song in-between, whilst presenters were telling us some great facts about the songs they've played using info extracted from Wikipedia. It might not have been entertaining or fun to listen to anymore – but I certainly knew that it was “playing the best of the 60’s, 70’s and more” because it kept on telling me that 20 or 30 times an hour. In the end that particular format annoyed me so much that I headed over to Radio 2 – as did many other people. Networking across Scotland seemed to make matters worse, with more listeners tuning away. The figures for Clyde 2 and its sister 2's in Scotland have never been so low.

So here we are in 2015 with an entire network of 2's, now sharing programs, many of which are coming from studios in Scotland whilst others are shared from people's home studios in England. So, with the changes, I decided to give the new network a try, even allowing a couple of weeks for it to bed in and gradually reduce the gremlins that come about when considerable change happens to something overnight.

I have to admit that I am pleasantly surprised. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. However, I would still say that whilst it's good, it's not quite Carling! I still hear some presenters during daytime (especially John Leslie) saying very little other than mentions of the songs they’re playing. Ally Bally is a good presenter, I know that - but I often catch him doing some very dry and flat links, as if he's being distracted by doing other jobs within the station, instead of focusing on presenting the show he’s doing. Strangely, the ladies I hear on late nights and thru' the night have caused me to stay tuned for much longer than I normally would have, mainly because of the things that they talk about. If only the same kind of presentation that was being used at nights was also carried during the day, I would give this station a bigger thumbs-up than I am just now. I certainly can't complain about the music, it seems right for the demographic, which I am now falling into.

So, I reckon that the 2's might be able to arrest the decline in Scotland at least (for a wee while) but I would strongly suggest that more personality and program features are included, to make me want to tune away from Radio 2 and Radio 5 a bit more often.

Well, that’s my opinion. Putting aside daft notions expressed by others that putting a number 2 after a heritage name will be a total failure, are the new 2’s in England any better? Are the programming changes for the existing 2’s in Scotland making the stations more listenable?


5 years, 2 months ago

The 2s do/did work before programme syndication came along.
What a pity, the old IBA's notion and test transmission of AM stereo was thrown out on to the scrap heap! AM stereo would have worked well within the primary reception areas of Clyde 2 and Forth 2 and even on WestSound AM in my area.
The IBA declared in a historic 'Engineering Announcement' that AM stereo is a worthwhile enhancement for ILR services on medium wave. Indeed!
The AM services 2nd chance to rival FM stereo quality was carriage on local DAB and in most ILR areas in Scotland, Scottish Radio Holdings subsidiary 'Score Digital' delivered these channels in stereo.
Unfortunately, DAB take up was a little slower than anticipated (although quicker take up than its predessor FM), so listeners preferred staying with AM rather than taking the plunge into digital radio for a little longer. Then time ran out for ILR programming on AM and will never return.
I think the 1s on ILR are going to suffer as well, grand plans have it that local DAB in my area (Ayrshire) will merge with Glasgow and the combined multiplex will be identified as Glasgow North. This could be the death of Westsound AM's sister station West FM!
The 'Glasgow South' multiplex is planned for the Dumfries & Galloway region. So, the Ayrshire services DAB encoder currently sited in the Westsound building in Ayr, could be moved to the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries, which houses Westsound FM for Dumfries & Galloway!
The plan for local DAB extensions are in the OFCOM site.
Kind Regards..Willie Bone

5 years, 2 months ago

The difficulties about AM stereo are that...

  • the limited bandwidth for AM in Europe doesn't actually give very good sound quality (very different in the US and Australia)
  • all the frequencies would have to be replanned, as I understand it, which isn't a minor operation and costs rather a lot of money (and risk)
  • AM simply isn't being built into new devices. It's costly and difficult to do, in comparison with FM which normally comes as a byproduct of a Bluetooth or wifi chip. This also hampers DRM30 receivers as well.
  • AM transmitters are very expensive to run in terms of electricity, are the most hazardous to health, and the masts are mainly nearing end of life and need renewing. As a result there are, some say, more AM transmitters in Europe that have been turned off than are still working.

As someone who looks at the future of radio, I'm afraid there's little future for AM in Europe. And that pains me.

I found the "2" quite a nice listen when I tried Hallam 2 the other day. I was surprised, however, to discover that it isn't available in stereo online, which ranks fairly highly in my "missed opportunity" chart.

5 years, 2 months ago

Crikey. I'm surprised.

On my DAB radios, Clyde 1, Clyde 2 and Cyde 3 come in order. Two of them are in stereo and No.3 is in good quality mono.

I have the new Radio Clyde app, which is quite smart and very easy to use. It has all three stations (instead of seperate apps per station), that I can select from the left hand side. All stations are in stereo, albeit the quality of Clyde 3 is not as good as I thought it could be, lacking a bit of bass and top-end, with quite a lot of emphasis on the mid-range.

As a side note, I'm growling at the word "Your" being used on the new logos and tagline. Use of that word has been my territory for many years. Back in 2001, along with Steven Scott (now of Insight Radio), I used it for creating (and copyrighting) the name and format concept behind Your FM/Your Radio, which has been broadcasting to the Firth of Clyde for almsot 14 years now. I also launched three businesses using the same word as part of the brand. Back in 2001, when Your Radio was coming into being, I decided to check for other "Your" companies, thinking that the word was so powerful that I must not have been the only person in the UK (or world) to have recognised it. Sure as heck, when I checked website domains for certain types of generic businesses, such as Your Bus, Your Taxi, Your Home etc., I found that the domains had been bought (but not used) by very well known companies that had existed for decades (and were not using the word as part of their brand or name). I can only guess it was an attempt to suppress the use of it by potential rivals. I must have been on to something and been a wee bit smarter than I reckoned I was in those days. So it's interesting that Bauer are now putting a lot of emphasis on that word for their intentions. Of course, I can't put copyright on a word that's used in everyday langauge but I am watching with interest.

5 years, 2 months ago

Talking about mono for online streams, I was shocked the BBC local radio stations in England are currently on 48kbps mono while regional stations for the nations stream at 80kbps WMA stereo. I would have thought all BBC local radio & regional radio would have identical bandwidth.

Art, you detailed a list of your hardware on a past mail, have you tried plugging in a Revo Mondo device into your hifi unit? The Lanark produced Revo Mondo device is a great interim solution to pick up internet radio stations! Worth a try, I think...
Kind Regards..Willie

5 years, 2 months ago

Indeed, my friend. I have 4 of Revo's Axis models dotted around the house, one of which is plugged into my seperates hi-fi system, giving me nice scrolling pictures on DAB and FM for some services and a bit more for wi-fi.

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