Warminster, Devizes and Trowbridge DAB licence award revoked

Ofcom has revoked the small-scale DAB licence award for Warminster, Devizes & Trowbridge.

The statutory move was made after the winner said it could not start broadcasting within the 18 month launch window.

“We have reasonable grounds for believing that the person to whom the licence was awarded will not provide the service within 18 months of the date of the award,” Ofcom said.

West Wiltshire Digital Radio, the consortium of community radio stations in Frome, Warminster and Devizes who won the licence for the area in autumn 2022, says it wants the licence to be re-advertised as they are still committed to operating the service.

The broadcasters said they reviewed the original technical plan in the light of the current economic climate and recent financial difficulties faced by some other multiplexes. The redesign meant the Ofcom on-air deadline of March 2024 was at risk of being missed, and the licence offer being revoked prior to getting on-air.

A spokesperson on behalf of Fantasy Radio, Frome FM and WCR, told RadioToday: “We are totally committed to bringing local DAB to the area and had informed Ofcom we were ready to re-apply. The three community stations and our other service provider partners all wish to broadcast on DAB in the area and we are very pleased that Ofcom has agreed to relist West Wiltshire in the next round of licence offers.”

Quentin Howard, chair of West Wiltshire Digital Radio, said: “We redesigned the network to create a prudent and viable long-term business but did not feel it was appropriate to risk spending charity money up front only to miss the strict on-air deadline imposed by Ofcom. Our only option was to ask Ofcom to repeat the licensing process.”

Quentin, who founded Digital One, the national DAB network and was President of the WorldDAB Forum, added: “I am a fervent supporter of SSDAB but the technical and economic challenges of rural DAB are quite different from those in metropolitan areas. Securing viable transmitter sites often takes much longer with planning permissions, electricity and fast fibre internet needed in quite remote locations.

“I want to see healthy and sustainable Small Scale DAB in every area including West Wiltshire. This is more important than ever now, given the decline in localness from BBC and commercial stations, and where existing DAB coverage is poor or non-existent. Every radio listener deserves the convenience and choice of local and national listening that DAB brings, and I am sure Ofcom wants to see this too.”

Ofcom added that it will now re-advertise the licence in Round Six.