The return of five radio stations in the evenings on Freeview in Scotland

Monday 2 December 2013, 16:45

Alix Pryde Alix Pryde Director, BBC Distribution

Tagged with:

In May 2011 I wrote my first blog post, covering the launch of BBC ALBA on Freeview in Scotland (in June 2011). I shared the difficult choice we’d had to make to prioritise BBC ALBA over BBC Radio services.  I’m really pleased to announce that we’re now able to restore five further radio services to full-time carriage on Freeview in Scotland, bringing the total to eight out of 13.

The original decision

BBC ALBA launched on satellite in September 2008 but not on Freeview.   It had always been the aim to launch on Freeview, but we had to find an affordable way to do it.  To make space, the BBC Trust gave approval for BBC ALBA to broadcast in Scotland in the evening in the place of 13 BBC Radio services.  We launched BBC ALBA on Freeview at the conclusion of digital switchover in Scotland in June 2011.

The BBC Trust also challenged BBC Management to look at affordable technical solutions that would allow some radio services to be retained around the clock.  The first part of this happened alongside the launch of BBC ALBA as we were able to retain three services.  We prioritised stations unavailable on FM and, because we couldn’t restore all seven stations without FM coverage, we gave priority to the stations that were the most listened to on digital television in Scotland: BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 6 Music.


We’re making a set of technical changes in Scotland which gives us some limited additional capacity to restore radio services. We’ve had to take a call on the best way of using this capacity, including which stations and in what quality.

We started by following the guiding principle of the original decision: to restore stations without FM coverage.  Prioritising the stations primarily aimed at a UK audience (i.e. excluding the BBC World Service) gives: BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC Asian Network.

As the national radio station for Scotland, restoring BBC Radio Scotland is naturally a high priority.  Furthermore, digital platforms take the MW version of the station with its coverage of sport in the evenings. 

In common with BBC Radio Scotland, the absence of BBC Radio 4 has been noted regularly in listener correspondence over the last two and a half years.

Consequently we’ve strived to restore all five stations noted above. In order to restore as many stations as five, they will be in mono rather than in stereo.  This does mean that there will be a drop in audio quality in the evenings compared with other times of the day. But we feel that maximising the number of stations is preferable to restoring fewer at higher quality.  We bore in mind that the stations we were seeking to restore are not purely music radio stations, and so, whilst not perfect, mono was a valid option.

For those wondering where the capacity has come from, our Red Button text service is running in less capacity now than in 2011 thanks to an increase in efficiency and we’re reducing the audio bit rate of our TV channels from 256kbit/s to 192kbit/s on Freeview in Scotland; 192kbit/s is on a par with other public service broadcasters’ main channels.

So as you can see, this good news is not without its trade-offs. But we have considered them very carefully and believe we have struck the right balance.


The following radio stations are now available around the clock on Freeview in Scotland:

  • BBC Radio Scotland
  • BBC Radio 1Xtra
  • BBC Radio 4
  • BBC Radio 4 Extra
  • BBC Radio 5 live
  • BBC Radio 5 live sports extra
  • BBC Radio 6 Music
  • BBC Asian Network


Five radio stations continue to be unavailable on Freeview in Scotland while BBC ALBA is on-air in the evening:

  • BBC Radio 1
  • BBC Radio 2
  • BBC Radio 3
  • BBC Radio nan Gàidheal
  • BBC World Service


The first four of these are available very widely across Scotland on FM and all are available on DAB, satellite and cable television and online.  BBC World Service is also available on BBC Radio 4 FM overnight.

I hope this improvement comes as good news to you.  I am sorry if we have not been able to restore all of your favourite stations but I hope this blog helps to explain why we have prioritised the services we have.  We will continue to look for opportunities to restore further radio stations as technical advancements allow.

Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution

Tagged with:


Jump to comments pagination

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

The First BBC TV Ident - Abram Games' Bat's Wings

Sunday 1 December 2013, 20:05

Public and Private Broadcasters across the World - The Race to the Top

Tuesday 3 December 2013, 10:39

About this Blog

This blog explains what the BBC does and how it works. We link to some other blogs and online spaces inside and outside the corporation. The blog is edited by Jon Jacob.

Follow About the BBC on Twitter

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

External links about the BBC

S Club 7 reunion FINALLY confirmed: They’re bringing it all back for Children In Need (Metro)

Kate Moss to appear in BBC’s David Walliams adaptation (Guardian)
"Supermodel to have cameo role as herself in hour-long family drama The Boy in the Dress, which will air at Christmas"

Doctor Who's new web game aims to teach children programming skills (Guardian)
"Latest attempt to make coding fun for kids involves rescuing a Dalek and exploring the unscreened world of Sontar"

BBC boss Danny Cohen hits back at Children in Need 'hidden millions' claims: 'Vulnerable children could suffer' (Mirror)

Strictly Come Dancing triumphs over The X Factor again in ratings battle (Independent) 

The Vamps win big at Radio 1 Teen Awards (MTV)

BBC adds chat app to Ebola effort (Ariel)
"World Service has turned to instant messenger to get the latest word on Ebola out to audiences in West Africa."

Broadcasters Reveal Leaders' Debate Plan (KL.FM)
"Sky News, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have announced joint plans for a series of party leader debates across TV and the internet in the run-up to the 2015 General Election."

BBC3 orders six docs from new directors for Fresh strand (Televisual)
"BBC3 has commissioned six new one-off documentaries for its Fresh strand – the channel’s scheme for new directors looking for a break into prime-time film-making."

Brainy BAMEs upskill (Ariel)

Pharrell, One Direction, Sam Smith And Pretty Much Everyone You’ve Ever Heard Of Beautifully Cover "God Only Knows" (Buzzfeed)
"Don’t blink, you might miss Elton John covered in butterflies or Lorde wearing angel wings"

Alan Sugar's not looking for 'donkeys' (Ariel)

BBC iPlayer catch-up window extended to 30 days

Strictly Come Dancing 2014: Gregg Wallace is first celebrity to leave the show (Radio Times)
"The MasterChef presenter fails to cook up enough votes to ensure his survival as Mrs Browns Boys star Jennifer Gibney beats him in the dance-off"

Martin Freeman to Star in BBC Drama About Trial of Adolf Eichmann (Hollywood Reporter)

BBC's casting coup: Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ian McKellen unite (Telegraph)

BBC launches Young Dancer 2015 competition (Digital Spy)
"the BBC is working with top names in dance to develop a programme that will not only find the young dance performers of the future, but give them a real break at the very start of their professional careers"

Conway to head up BBC Studios and Post Production (Televisual)
"I’m looking forward to working with the BBC S&PP team to further stabilise the business after several years of exceptional transformation and change"

First Look At Benedict Cumberbatch As Richard III In The Hollow Crown (Empire)

Sheila Tracy, the first woman to read the news on Radio 4, dies (Telegraph)

Sheila Tracy, the first woman to read the news on Radio 4, dies (Telegraph)

Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park attracted record 1.19m Red Button viewers (Musicweek)
"These numbers bear testimony to us having secured this broad and distinctive line-up of artists who are bang on target for our audience on air, online and on TV"

End of an era: BBC letters taken down from Television Centre in Shepherd's Bush after 54 years (Evening Standard)

Eniola Aluko makes history as first female Match of the Day pundit (Guardian)

Last updated Wednesday 22 October 2014

Blogs from across the BBC

Selected by the About the BBC Blog team.

BBC to launch 'The Doctor and the Dalek' game for kids [Doctor Who]
Weather: Redirecting mobile users to responsive [Internet]
Google's 'right to be forgotten' tour comes to London [Academy]
Encouraging your children's language and comprehension skills through shared book reading [CBeebies Grown-ups]
The vegetables of truth [Adam Curtis]

MatOf ThDay At 50: onic theme even has a banjo [TV]