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Are we going to get BBC local radio on Freeview in England?

If you have Freeview in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you have always had two extra BBC radio stations. Do tests in the West Midlands perhaps mean that we will we soon get local radio in England? I hope so.

Some people will be happy to hear BBC local radio in digital sound for the first time.  Photograph: Shutterstock
Some people will be happy to hear BBC local radio in digital sound for the first time. Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

The BBC standard definition Freeview multiplex operates at a bitrate of 24.1Mbps. That is actually enough to carry over 380 digital radio stations (in monaural 64kbps).

Given that some of this capacity is used for the "national" services for Wales (Radio Wales, Radio Cymru), Scotland (Radio Scotland and Radio nan Gaidheal)) and Northern Ireland (Radio Ulster abnd Radio Foyle) it seems a bit of a shame that Freeview users in England do not get their local radio stations. According to a516digital: BBC local radio spotted testing on Freeview in West Midlands there are tests going on.

I thought it might be useful to think about how this might work in practice.

The BBC can't really sub-region the TV regions to get them down to "county size". This would require doubling (or more) the number of expensive stat-mux points, and making changes to the already-complex Freeview broadcasting arrangements.

So, it seems to me the obvious track is to add the appropriate several stations to each TV region. This could be done with existing equipment and no changes to the broadcast system.

You would end up with something like this:


732 BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
754 BBC Radio Northampton
766 BBC Three Counties Radio (duplicated)


740 BBC Guernsey
743 BBC Radio Jersey


738 BBC Essex
753 BBC Radio Norfolk
762 BBC Radio Suffolk (not on DAB yet)


736 BBC Radio Derby (not on DAB yet)
747 BBC Radio Leicester
755 BBC Radio Nottingham


742 BBC Radio Humberside
748 BBC Lincolnshire (not on DAB yet)


738 BBC Essex (duplicate - Don)
749 BBC London 94.9
763 BBC Surrey
766 BBC Three Counties Radio (duplicated)


735 BBC Radio Cumbria (not on DAB yet)
752 BBC Newcastle
765 BBC Tees


745 BBC Radio Lancashire
750 BBC Radio Manchester
751 BBC Radio Merseyside


730 BBC Radio Berkshire
759 BBC Radio Solent
764 BBC Sussex (duplicated)


756 BBC Oxford


744 BBC Radio Kent
764 BBC Sussex (duplicated)


733 BBC Radio Cornwall
737 BBC Radio Devon


731 BBC Radio Bristol
739 BBC Radio Gloucestershire (duplicate Anthony)
760 BBC Somerset (not on DAB yet)
767 BBC Wiltshire


768 BBC WM
734 BBC Coventry and Warwickshire
739 BBC Radio Gloucestershire
741 BBC Hereford and Worcester
758 BBC Radio Shropshire
761 BBC Radio Stoke


746 BBC Radio Leeds
757 BBC Radio Sheffield
769 BBC Radio York (not on DAB yet)

An additional thought - now Sky won't charge the BBC for EPG listings anymore - and not that Sky had much in the way of radio EPG listings - but it might be possible for the local radio (England) services to make their way onto Sky and Freesat.

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

5:32 PM

Anthony: Thanks.

As I've been saying, it's not technically possible to split the Freeview BBC regions without causing excessive expense.

Even when the BBC was well-funded I don't think that the cost of new equipment - not to mention the testing and possible consumer problems - would really justify breaking up the regions.

Remember that the services are multiplexes: they are high-speed flows of bits which contain lots of different services: video streams, audio streams, EPG data, MHEG-5 services all chopped up into fixed sized transport packet of 188 bytes (4 header, 184 payload).

It actually quite a complex task to break-out from these: and very expensive. That's why all the transmitter sites just do a bit-for-bit relay of the services.

You may recall the the Freeview transmitter name field used to often list the wrong name (all of Wales got "Wenvoe") in the past.

If you're interested in the technial side: see MPEG-2 Transmission .

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
5:34 PM

Here in northern Ireland we also have U105 on Freeview in addition to BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle.

U105 is a commercial station owned by UTV and is available on all transmitters.

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PJH's 2 posts GB flag

5:36 PM

Anthony: Two additional thoughts.

There are still some areas that don't have BBC Local Radio (or indeed any local radio) on DAB. Derby is a good example. This plan would help these stations.

Another possible place for the services would be on the LocalTV "Comux" such as the three ones at Winter Hill However, these are designed to cover cities (ie, Liverpool or Manchester), not counties (Merseyside, GM)

Winter Hill (Bolton, England) transmitter | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag

5:41 PM

PJH: That's true, which you might expect from UTV and their UTV Radio radio "empire" that includes Talksport: UTV Radio - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I can't see ITV wishing to provide for ILR stations on PSB2, however.

The Beeb can afford to do this kind of thing to complement it's TV services: for ITV they would be competitors.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
Peter Webber
10:01 PM

I downloaded my freeview the other night and I got two new channels one was local TV test 1 the other was bonanza bonanza they both gave a reading of 1 any ideas why the signal is so low I'm on the tacleston transmitter I wrote to the bbc a few years ago about local radio on freeview and was told it was not possible how times change

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Peter Webber's 4 posts GB flag
Peter's: mapP's Freeview map terrainP's terrain plot wavesP's frequency data P's Freeview Detailed Coverage

10:18 PM

Peter Webber: The local TV service is for Norwich, it is not directed at Lowestoft. You are outside the reception area.

Look at the LNRH coverage on Tacolneston (Norfolk, England) transmitter | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice .

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag

10:26 PM

bbc radio lancashire covers a fair old area from Winter Hill on 103.9 mhz vhf stereo and far beyond because of the transmitters high location and huge omnidirectional transmission beam;it can be heard quite clearly on that frequency in east lancs in addition to 95.5mhz vhf stereo from hameldon hill near Burnley.

BBC R Lancs on Freeview should replicate the same coverage area offered by the vhf-fm stereo transmissions currently broadcast from Winter Hill tx.

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Anthony's 70 posts GB flag
Monday, 3 March 2014

12:28 AM

Further to Mark's point above, editorially in Gloucestershire it is not just those parts of southern Gloucestershire (as opposed to South Gloucestershire) like Lydney, Stroud and Cirecester that are in the BBC West region editorially. The major centres of Cheltenham and Gloucester are too, which is why households in both places on cable and satellite get BBC West as their region on BBC1.
So the vast majority of Gloucestershire's households get BBC West.
Add to that the fact that BBC Radio Gloucestershire is in the BBC West radio cluster, there is a real need for Mendip to carry BBC Radio Gloucestershire on Freeview; and the absolute nonsense that Ridge Hill carries ITV West, but not BBC West to be sorted.

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andrewp's 38 posts GB flag

5:27 AM

Anthony: If and when the BBC local radio services start, I would expect that they will be provided to the "editorial areas". Any overlap will be down to the larger TV regions.

Compare Maps | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice and Details of BBC Radio Lancashire (FM) analogue radio station | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice .

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag

5:37 AM

Anthony: I've covered this at Whatever happened to Central South, Meridian Newbury and ITV Thames Valley? | About UK Free TV | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice

The extra ITV service from Ridge Hill, which is provided to the south, east and southeast of the mast is due to the removal of the ITV Central South/ITV Thames Valley region.

The BBC still have smaller regions (BBC Oxford) and therefore they are happy for Cheltenham and Gloucester to be remain editorially part of BBC West Midlands.

The problem for the ITV network was that Cheltenham and Gloucester had been part of Central South, and then got put back into ITV Central West when ITV Thames Valley was created and then forgotten about when ITV Thames Valley was merged into the massive ITV Meridian region (which goes all the way to Dover).

The ITV Meridian service is covered by BBC Oxford, BBC South(ampton) and BBC South East (from Tunbridge Wells).

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
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