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BBC local radio now on Freeview

By James Cridland for media.info
Posted 3 March 2015, 6.03am est

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BBC local radio in England launches on Freeview across the UK today. Most viewers using Freeview can now access a BBC local radio station, however the BBC local station may not be their own, due to differences in broadcast areas.

Local radio stations co-located with BBC regional television services appear to be the main beneficiary of this rollout. The stations are reported to be in mono.

14.5% of the UK listens to radio via the TV at least once a week; it currently accounts for 4.7% of total radio listening.

The full channel listing is:

719

720

721

722

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the BBC's regional radio services are available on Freeview channels 719 and 720.

More information

James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
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Comments

2 years, 8 months ago

No BBC local stations are showing on my Freeview even after a retune unfortunately.

2 years, 8 months ago

Seriously? I don't listen to radio on my television, and I know of nobody that does. This is a waste of space on Freeview. The space would be better used for more local television stations.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

I don't listen to radio on my television, and I know of nobody that does.

Audiences to radio-through-the-tv are almost as high as internet radio in the UK, as I point out in my latest AllAccess column. And you can't fit much video into 80kbps.

2 years, 8 months ago

Not into 80kbps, but all the BBC audio streams do add up to another video channel. BBC Alba on Freeview in Scotland. The idea of radio on a TV service like Freeview is convergence stupidity gone wild.

2 years, 8 months ago

I have my misgivings at the launch of these BBC locals on freeview. However, whilst it might be a good idea, intially, some people are not going to be happy that their BBC local is not there. Mine, BBC Tees is not present yet, we have got BBC Newcastle. This also could pose a potential problem. Online, the BBC has to play a holding message when Soccer commentaries are on because of broadcasting rights restrictions. Is this likely to happen where the BBC local is currently being transmitted outside of its "normal" coverage area.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

Adding BBC local radio stations to Freeview has reduced the resolution of the BBC SD channels slightly. It doesn't affect me personally as I watch BBC channels in HD which are on a different multiplex to the one where the local stations are on.

The other issue is that only certain LR's have been added, so if you live in Hastings, which receives BBC One South East, they get BBC Radio Kent. The local station, BBC Sussex has poor FM reception due to a lack of a relay in the town, so the 1161khz transmission from Bexhill or DAB is the only way way of receiving it currently.

2 years, 8 months ago

Ian - we do the majority of our listening to radio at home via our YouView box plugged into our telly. Why on earth do people have to have different pieces of tech, one to deliver audio and video, and one to deliver audio only?

2 years, 8 months ago

Oliver - The reason we have DAB/FM radios in various rooms and in the car is so that we can listen to the stations that are not on Freeview (we don't use satellite TV) such as BBC Radio Humberside, Viking 2 & Yorkshire Coast Radio as well as UCB UK as well as different members of the family wanting to listen to different stations in different rooms, including the kitchen, at the same time. Radio is flexible whereas having to base listening around a TV is not.

2 years, 8 months ago

J Peter - sorry that wasn't a criticism of having DAB radios; it was making the point that there is little point in having a radio next to your telly when your telly can do (for you) everything that your radio can do - which was what the OP had appeared to suggest. I totally accept not all channels are on Freeview; and a TV is in a fixed location in the way that radios are not.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

Most people don't have a radio in their front room. And total listening to radio over DTV is very similar to total listening to radio over internet. Nobody'd seriously claim that being on the internet was a pointless experience.

I gather that more BBC Local Radio stations are planned to be on Freeview over the next few months, and by the end of the year you're likely to get them all on there. The BBC's done an unusually pragmatic thing by turning on the stations that were easiest first, rather than waiting until every single station was ready to go. I wish they'd do that with BBC One HD - I'm really very bored having to switch to SD to watch the local news.

2 years, 8 months ago

Most BBC local stations have extremely powerful transmitters and excellent coverage throughout their TSA. Why the need for this massive expense to be on Freeview?

2 years, 8 months ago

Many places are not served by extremely large powerful transmitters and don't have excellent coverage in their area, so FM, medium wave and occasionally DAB can still be poor. However, one thing that is absolutely guaranteed is that most households and dwellings in such places have a TV antenna pointing to the local TV mast, for which they are getting near perfect or totally perfect Freeview reception. The minority will be Sky-only and even fewer will be cable only, since cable TV is usually confined to large population centres.

Whilst BBC local radio might be the runt of the BBC litter, it is still a public broadcast channel, so the BBC are keeping to their commitments by providing their services on accessible multi-platforms.

Besides, Scotland and Wales have enjoyed two BBC local/national stations, whilst Northern Ireland has also had its own, so why should England be left out?

It would also make sense, if it was technically and financially possible, to have those services on Sky and cable, with the postcode restrictions that are applied to TV channels. I can get STV (Scotland's equivalent to ITV) on Channel 3 on Sky/FreeSat and Freeview. I can also get our local community TV station, which is STV Glasgow on Freeview and Sky, plus STV Edinburgh on Sky (but not on Freeview). I doubt if I would get STV Aberdeen or STV Dundee if and when they launch because Sky would probably restrict me. I certainly can't get some TV channels that are broadcast exclusively to corners of England, nor the Irish channels. So it makes sense that if BBC local radio was on there, it could also be restricted to viewers and listeners in specific areas. BBC London 94.9 is not on the EPG for me, so I have to go into the menus to hear it.

2 years, 8 months ago

Unless things have changed since I left Sky in 2006. You can add, and watch any ITV or STV channel via the add additional channels feature as they are soft encrypted. I have STV on my Freesat box. RTE and T4 in Ireland are fully encrypted. I have BBC London on my Freesat box as well.

I think that cost might be an issue for the BBC locals going onto Dsat.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

Why the need for this massive expense to be on Freeview?

The BBC owns the transmitter infrastructure on Freeview (at least, rents the multiplexes as a whole) and therefore there is no massive additional cost to put BBC Local Radio there.

Your point about the stations already having good FM transmission is true; however, we don't have radio sets in every room in the house. Particularly for bedrooms and front rooms, many people are likely to have a TV and not a radio. Research points to this being a popular way of listening to the radio.

2 years, 8 months ago

I forget to mention that putting BBC locals on either Sky or Freesat would potentially cause problems with soccer broadcast rights for coverage as BBC sations are "in the clear" and can be heard or seen anywhere the signal can be picked up.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

The BBC can as they do with BBC London 94.9 restrict the access via the Sky EPG to those are in the BBC London tv postcode area. Considering the size of the TSA, the cost is prohibitive, but that can't be said for some of the rural BBC LR's.

2 years, 8 months ago

Art: You mention that most places will get perfect or near-perfect Freeview reception. Not here as on the Yorkshire coast if you live in or near Bridlington the TV transmitter for this area is at Belmont in Lincolnshire (Look North for East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire from Hull) and even with a TV aerial amplifier our DTT TV reception can breakup, especially in the summer, whereas friends just 12 miles away in Scarborough (Look North Yorkshire from Leeds) have their own Oliver's Mount DTT transmitter over-seeing their town and have perfect reception.

On the other hand our DAB reception of BBC Radio Humberside via the Humberside mux is perfect as we receive reception from the Bridlington's Buckton Barn transmitter + Cove Wold and the BBC's Radio Humberside transmitter on 95.9 FM is from High Hunsley. Our friends just 12 miles away receive BBC Radio York on both FM and DAB (via the new North Yorkshire mux) from Oliver's Mount.

An unfortunate side-effect of the pattern of local DAB multiplexes, which seemed to have been designed to carried the BBC local radio service or a BBC nation station, is that they sometimes ignore the coverage areas of some commercial FM radio services that were put in place initially because those areas covered the towns and surrounding areas to which the local population relate such as Yorkshire Coast Radio (YCR) covering Bridlington (102.4), Filey/Scarborough (96.2) and Whitby (103.1): in the case of YCR it would mean that in order to cover this entire patch on DAB it would have to be broadcast on the three Humberside, North Yorkshire and Teesside muxes and this must make the use of local DAB for these type of smaller stations uneconomic in its current form.

We therefore find that the BBC Local Radio services that some of us will receive via Freeview will not meet our informational needs and we will still have to rely on our local news from the BBC on FM or DAB and from our local commercial stations on FM unless they can afford to be also on DAB.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

DAB local muxes are, actually, designed for the heritage FM commercial station: so you've one for "Minster", one for "TFM" and one for "Viking". Ofcom is currently inviting companies to test a small-scale DAB service that could allow YCR to have its own DAB multiplex covering its area.

Your part of the world is complicated, because you live in what was once Humberside, a different county from the North Yorkshire of Skipton and Whitby. Accordingly, the broadcasters ensured that Bridlington was given editorial output from Hull, not York. History is against you, sadly.

Back to Freeview. I understand that additional BBC radio services will be added to Freeview in time. I'd see Humberside being added to the Belmont transmitter relatively soon. But Freeview is intended as an additional outlet to FM/DAB, not a replacement. Belmont has patchy coverage in your area in any case.

I must say, I do find it odd that people involved with radio can be so negative about new ways of receiving radio. Even if you won't use it, it's odd that you'd complain about it "not meeting your informational needs". The future of radio is multiplatform: and you've FM, rock-solid DAB (which not many people can claim!), and internet radio. Nobody's forcing you to abandon any of those and switch over to Freeview.

2 years, 8 months ago

James: Thank you so much for your comments. I do agree with you that the future of radio is multi-platform - DAB, FM and the Internet in its various forms as well as via TV.

Now for a historical note: Prior to the 1974 carve-up of Yorkshire into the 'administrative' counties of Humberside, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire the three Ridings covered an area that included Dent, Saddleworth (their town signs still have white roses on them) and it reached the south bank of the River Tees. Yorkshire folk never accepted the loss of the name of the East Riding to Humberside and so it was in 1996 that the administrative county of Humberside was broken-up and we got back a unitary authority under the name of the East Riding of Yorkshire. So today Look North from Hull is badged as for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and BBC Radio Humberside tells us that it covers East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire. In the case of the North Yorkshire DAB mux it appears to be a fill-in mux between city-based muxes as York's Minister FM was never seen as the station for the whole of North Yorkshire as within two years of its commencement of it broadcasting in 1992 Yorkshire Coast Radio had started in 1993 and the group of which I was a member had launched Stray FM in 1994: all these three stations were firmly targeted at the towns (or cities in the case of York) and surrounding countryside to which local people related rather than an area imposed from outside. I might suggest that this is why both Stray FM and Yorkshire Coast Radio still have reach figures in the 35-45% range despite versions of networked music stations broadcasting into their TSAs from neighbouring areas.

I am in favour of a wide choice of listening on various platforms but unfortunately the editorial boundaries do not always relate to the local area of interest to listeners. For example I know that the launch of the Discover the Yorkshire Coast initiative - http://www.discoveryorkshirecoast.com/ - was only covered by Look North from Hull and so folk in Scarborough and Whitby did not see it. So I hope that this will be a lesson for broadcasters in their local coverage of the Tour de Yorkshire on 1-3 May - http://letour.yorkshire.com/ - and that neighbouring BBC Look North areas co-operate and BBC Radios Humberside, Leeds, Sheffield and York do work together. If they do it will not matter whether we listen on Freeview, FM or DAB.

2 years, 8 months ago

James: With regard to your positive comments on the Yorkshire Coast and the possible use of minimuxes might I suggest that you look at the Christian Broadcasting Council's website to read their response to Ofcom on the matter of local DAB - http://www.cbc.org.uk/index.php/what-do-we-do/ofcom-and-dcms-advising-consultations/32-cbc-response-to-ofcom-plan-for-extending-local-dab-coverage

2 years, 8 months ago

Following on from James Cridland's point, it's interesting to hear people's reactions when broadcasters, especially the BBC, add extra services or platforms. For many (older?) people, there's an expectation of universality. I think this becomes conflated with fairness.

So, rather than being seen as an improvement, putting some but not all local stations on Freeview or some but not all TV regional news on HD becomes a sign of BBC unfairness or incompetence, especially if you get the 'wrong' service. I bet this isn't helped by all the perceived regional biases that the BBC is slated for: Manchester over Liverpool, Leeds over Sheffield, London over everywhere. It's the
W1A storyline - insufficient airtime for Cornish affairs - made real.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if the BBC will put on neighbouring BBC local radio stations in BBC London's tv region, despite not being part of the editorial region of the regional news magazine it's associated with?

BBC Surrey is largely within BBC London's tv region, but is aligned with BBC South East. Other stations affected are BBC Radio Kent, BBC Three Counties Radio, BBC Radio Berkshire and BBC Essex.

In the case of BBC Surrey, this could lead to a minority of viewers in the far east of the county receiving the station from Bluebell Hill in Kent while the majority continue to receive BBC London 94.9 from Reigate, Guildford or Crystal Palace.

2 years, 8 months ago

One thing that I have not seen mentioned. Are these BBC locals on the MAIN transmitters ony are are they also on the filler services,sorry relays.

PRO2 years, 8 months ago

Are these BBC locals on the MAIN transmitters ony are are they also on the filler services,sorry relays.

The BBC locals are on the multiplex which has the BBC SD channels which is regionalised, so yes, they're also on the relay (Freeview lite) transmitters.

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