Changes to some BBC local radio medium wave services

Director, BBC Distribution & Business Development

We know how much you love your local radio services, with more and more of you listening in different ways: using FM, DAB or internet-based services such as BBC iPlayer Radio.

We regularly review the value for money of our distribution our services across all platforms to ensure we’re spending the licence fee as efficiently as possible. And back in 2011, as part of the BBC’s Delivering Quality First plans to save around £700m, we announced we would be closing some medium wave transmitters to save millions of pounds.

Since then, we have carefully looked at the range of services we deliver on medium wave, and the range of analogue and digital alternative options for audiences. We have also been investing too - funding local DAB expansion, making all local radio stations available on Digital Terrestrial TV (such as Freeview), and enhancing the sound quality of our online output.

But on changes to medium wave coverage specifically, to identify areas where the impact would be felt the least, we conducted detailed assessments of the coverage of each BBC local radio station on FM, MW and DAB. Following this process, we trialled the switch-off of a number of medium-wave transmitters and asked for audience feedback. Taken together, the audience feedback and the coverage data have informed which medium wave transmitters are unlikely to represent value for money in the longer term.

As a result, we will be closing 13 medium wave transmitters in January 2018.

So what does this mean? Once the changes take effect, BBC Radio Sussex, Surrey, Humberside, Wiltshire, Nottingham, Kent, and Lincolnshire will no longer be accessible on medium wave. And, there will be reduced medium-wave coverage for BBC Devon, Lancashire and Essex.

We know these changes will have an impact on some listeners. For the majority, re-tuning to FM or DAB is likely to be the simplest solution - and any listeners who have trouble receiving FM or DAB signals can find BBC local radio stations on Freeview or the internet.

These changes are still some months away, but we will be talking about them on air, on the stations affected to make sure listeners are ready. We’ll also be making more information available through our usual channels.

Kieran Clifton is Director, BBC Distribution & Business Development

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