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What to do with Glasgow's 96.3FM spare frequency

What Xfm's old frequency in Glasgow could be used for

By Art Grainger
Posted 7 September 2015, 3.41am edt

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Global will hand the Paisley licence back in the middle of the month to coincide with the launch of Radio X, which means that 96.3, which has been transmitting something for the past 23 years, will fall silent. But does it really have to?

Could it be put to good use - and not impact on other services?

There are several community radio stations in Glasgow, some of which have defined geographical areas that they broadcast a general mix of programmes to. Others are specialist services that due to the quirk of the licencing of community stations have ended up broadcasting to small geographic areas, when a larger area would be of greater benefit.

Awaz FM is, to my mind, a misuse of FM spectrum. Why? Well, they have a pokey wee 25 watt transmitter on 107.2 that doesn't even serve all of Glasgow. Awaz FM is Glasgow's only Asian station, trying to reach as many Asians as possible for as much as their signal allows.

Meanwhile, up at Seargeant's Law, 96.3 is a higher powered transmitter about to fall silent. This one covers almost all of Glasgow and still gives something between very usable to very good reception in areas well beyond that, including most of Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, parts of South Lanarkshire, parts of Ayrshire and even good in-car reception along the M8 until you reach Black Hill.

That is potentially an awful lot more Asian people who could receive that signal.

(Editor's note: 21% of Glasgow's population is ethnic minority; around half that are Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi or Other Asian).

Ah! But has a community radio station ever taken over a frequency (with the same transmission power) as an ILR before?

Yes, it has. Vibe FM in Watford. They are a community station, with the unusual allocation of 200 watts, simply because the ILR that previously occupied the frequency had that power as well.

Ah! But has a radio station with absolutely no connection with another radio station ever been allowed to take over the transmitter and frequency of the other radio station when it was closing down?

Yes! Heartland FM was given permission to take over the Perth FM licence when Mark Page could no longer operate it, meaning that Heartland FM was able to extend its service area. Heartland later moved that transmitter site and has extended its area even further.

Does it not make total sense?

Awaz FM would in no way impact on the business interest of Global and their remaining services, which may have been the reason why they wanted to hand the licence back in the first place.

More information

Awaz FM
Glasgow
Art Grainger — Art has been involved in a number of community radio services in Scotland.
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Comments

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Not being from the area - this would appear to make sense. However, you could see some of the Glasgow DAB people being keen to have permanent FM coverage too.

I'm not sure why they've given the licence back, rather than seeking a buyer.

1 year, 7 months ago

Presumably there's the risk of a competitor acquiring it and harming Global.

I wondered at the possibility of putting Capital Xtra on the frequency, or maybe even looking at pushing through a format change to Smooth Extra or Gold - a voicetracked breakfast show and then a jockless drivetime, which in effect is networked anyway but just played out locally.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Handing back the licence doesn't harm Global in the slightest, they'll have Heart and Smooth (alongside national ad revenue from Communicorp's Capital Scotland) and stops another commercial competitor coming into the Glasgow market.

I'm sure eventually 96.3 will be used for a community station, although I hope the current tx and power allocation are used for it.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

stops another commercial competitor coming into the Glasgow market

How? Surely it is an Ofcom FM licence which they are duty-bound to readvertise? Or are Global assuming that Ofcom can no longer readvertise FM licences, and therefore - as you say - it is a crafty way of removing competition?

Wouldn't Bauer want it for Clyde 2 or Clyde 3?

J

1 year, 7 months ago

They COULD re-advertise, but I don't know of it ever happening.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Handed in licences in the last few years which have not been re-advertised include Time 106.8, South London Radio and Star Radio Stroud. The frequencies were reallocated to community stations.

All of these licences have been small scale, just like Xfm Scotland and not been in the commercial interest to re-advertise.

1 year, 7 months ago

Why on earth did Global just hand this back, when they have a successful radio station in London (Chill) which funny enough will also now broadcast across Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire shortly thanks to Radio X.

The station is ready to go; Music during the day to help the listeners chill with presenter led shows in the evenings and Sunday afternoons. This station is unique and could have given Global an opportunity for a sponsor or advertising.

An opportunity wasted for Global and Listeners.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Because Chill can't simply rebroadcast in Glasgow. Ofcom insist that seven hours should be locally produced; and it also needs to be a rock station.

Now, theoretically, you could have moved Chill's playout machine up to Glasgow and simply ask for a format change, I suppose.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Ofcom insist that seven hours should be locally produced; and it also needs to be a rock station.

To quote from the Xfm (Paisley) format.

A LOCALLY FOCUSED ROCK/POP MUSIC AND INFORMATION STATION FOR THE PAISLEY AREA.

This licence has previously been an AC format station as Q96 as well as classic rock as Rock Radio/Real XS.

I can't see why format wise it wouldn't fit GO Radio for example.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

I'd agree with that. What's relatively clear is that "A locally focused rock/pop music and information station" is miles away from Chill.

1 year, 7 months ago

Chill is completely automated, isn't it? So there's no reason why they couldn't just have a separate log playing out of Glasgow.

But yes, it'd need a format change.

Likewise, if you put Gold on, Tony Dibbin could voicetrack a separate breakfast show, and a separate version of the 4-7pm log is played out from Glasgow.

1 year, 7 months ago

Monday
Through the day - music to help you chill
7-8pm - Ben Mynott's Fluidnation - just beautiful music mixed by Fragile State's Ben Mynott
10pm-midnight - Simple City - acoustic music with Bern Leckie
Midnight-2am - Midnight Chill - the most relaxing ambient music.

Tuesday
Through the day - music to help you chill
10-11pm - The Hut - Ben Eshmade creates a cocoon of the finest in new music, spinning a warm glow from the outer-reaches of the snowy wastelands.
11pm-midnight - The Circle - A one-hour journey based on the simplest shape - a tour round a guest curator’s musical landscape, always ending at the point where it begins.
Midnight-2am - Midnight Chill - the most relaxing ambient music.

Wednesday
Through the day - music to help you chill
10pm-midnight - The Deep End - a wide mix of electronica with Paul Noble
Midnight-2am - Midnight Chill - the most relaxing ambient music

Thursday
Through the day - music to help you chill
10pm-midnight - Chiller Cabinet - dream-like music, movies and minimalism from Ben Eshmade
Midnight-2am - Midnight Chill - the most relaxing ambient music

Friday
Through the day - music to help you chill
7-8pm - Abstrait on Chill - from one of Europe's chillout pioneers, Raphaël Marionneau
10pm-midnight - Ben Mynott's Fluidnation - just beautiful music mixed by Fragile State's Ben Mynott
Midnight-1am - The Hut - Ben Eshmade creates a cocoon of the finest in new music, spinning a warm glow from the outer-reaches of the snowy wastelands.
1-2am - The Circle - A one-hour journey based on the simplest shape - a tour round a guest curator’s musical landscape, always ending at the point where it begins.

Saturday
Through the day - music to help you chill
10pm-midnight - Alucidnation presents Eclectronica - Bruce Bickerton mixes up his amazing record collection
Midnight-2am - Chiller Cabinet - dream-like music, movies and minimalism from Ben Eshmade

Sunday
Through the day - music to help you chill
Noon-2pm - Ben Mynott's Fluidnation - just beautiful music mixed by Fragile State's Ben Mynott
10pm-midnight - Alucidnation presents Eclectronica - Bruce Bickerton mixes up his amazing record collection
Midnight-2am - Midnight Chill - the most relaxing ambient music

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

The Arrow would have also been an acceptable alternative and closer to the Rock Radio/Real XS period of the licence.

1 year, 7 months ago

Just read all those posts and put my DAB radio on where XFM WAS, silent, the same goes for 96.3FM, silent (hiss) after 23 years on air, a bit sad.

1 year, 6 months ago

So we now know that Ofcom will re-advertise the licence. If it was Global's intention (by handing back the licence instead of selling) to ensure that they had less competition in order to protect Heart and Smooth, this hasn't worked their way.

So, aside from my suggestion that it should go at an Asian station, who tried very hard for years before eventually getting a low powered transmitter and a community licence back in 2001 to serve their community, it will be interesting to see who will actually get to play at Radio Stations, firing off wee fancy jingles and music, whilst talking rubbish about nothing and will probably be making claims about being local.

Regardless of what happens or who decides to apply, it is quite likely that if it is given to a general music service aimed at 25-55 year olds it will impact on Heart's already quite eroded figures ...... in Scotland's biggest market. If the new station provides local programming as its USP over the others (which actually is a subject that is resonating with many people in Glasgow and Scotland right now), they could do quite well. It happened with Original 106 in Aberdeen.

Interesting times ahead. I wonder if Global are having some regrets right now, more especially because they could have at least earned some dosh by selling the licence. This licence effectively comes merely at the cost of an application (which is almost as good as free) for those who want to apply - and there will be a fair few.

1 year, 6 months ago

it will be interesting to see who will actually get to play at Radio Stations, firing off wee fancy jingles and music, whilst talking rubbish about nothing and will probably be making claims about being local.

I'm glad to see you've already decided you dislike this new station before:
a) the station has launched;
b) the licence has been awarded;
c) the licence has been advertised;
d) we know what area it's going to cover...!

It's always good to read optimistic posts on here.

1 year, 6 months ago

More posting variety, this is Art.

1 year, 6 months ago

James, that post hasn't lost its comedy value, even though you've posted it before.

Alice, you can criticise me as much as you like - but here is the reality.

96.3 has been a general music and entertainment service before - and it has failed.

It tried to be a local station for Paisley, with community programming in the evenings and an MOR/AOR/classic hits service by day. It failed.

It tried to be a classic hits service for Paisley AND GLASGOW and anywhere beyond that could receive it. It failed.

It tried (again) to be a classic hits service focusing on Paisley and Renfrewshire. It failed.

It tried to be a classic rock service for West Central Scotland. It failed.

It tried to be an indie-music service for West Central Scotland - and it scored its worst audiences .... ever!

So excuse me for being a cynic but I can't help but think that there are some people in the industry who will have ignored all that history and all those things that happened for more than two decades.

I live in West Central Scotland. I know too well that there's a merry-go-round of radio people in this area (usually anoraks and former radio people) who will go hell-bent to give radio a go, in any form - and so here is another opportunity for them because they happen to like playing with radio, whilst not having quite as much business sense.

Granted, the radio landscape in Scotland has changed quite a bit recently, which could actually work in their favour (for the first time). Radio Clyde's programming is weaker than ever before, with much more networked and less Glasgow-focused programming on Clyde 1, plus Scotland-wide programming on Clyde 2 (with two or three programs coming from England each day). Smooth Radio and Capital we can almost ignore - but where the new Glasgow service could win will probably be because of the programming decisions made on what was Real Radio (near 24-7 from Glasgow - speaking the Glasgow lingo) to what is now the jingle-fest and near non-stop English accents on Heart, which says little to the listeners in Glasgow and has had plummeting audiences as a result.

However, I'm not an optimist, nor a pessimist. I'm a realist (I believe that things will happen when I actually witness it happening). In 2015 we also have a lot more media, especially music media, to keep us entertained. So radio does not quite have its place as the primary source of background music entertainment that it used to. So a new general music radio service has to work much, much harder these days to convince people to tune in to them - which I believe means that they have to do quite a lot more than play back-to-back music with token mentions of the area they broadcast to. Real Radio was quite successful at that - but it was expensive for them.

So, I stick by what I said when I created this thread. Awaz FM would probably be the very best use of this frequency and transmitter site.

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