Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Radio (No-)Onesignal strength
Tuesday 18 April, 2006, 15:31
twolochsThe number of radio stations in the UK has been on the increase since commercial radio was first licensed since the late 1970's. The latest raft of licences (excluding the community licences recently awarded) includes stations whose potential audience is, to put it mildly, tiny. The coverage of stations such as TwoLochs FM, LochBroom FM and Isles FM - all of which are in a highly unpopulated area of Northern Scotland - probably does not stretch to more than around 10,000 people. There is an unarguable need for these isolated communities to have local services to bring them together and broadcast radio is a good way of doing this, however one has to wonder whether it is a good use of the radio spectrum or not.

In London for example, radio spectrum is at a premium and despite there already being over 21 FM stations in the city, there is still pressure for more. Could the frequencies that have been assigned to these remote stations not be more effectively employed providing new FM services in London where the audience potential is nearly 1,000 times greater? The answer, sadly, is 'NO'. The distance between these remote stations and London is well over 600 km, so even if all the frequencies on the FM band were assigned to stations broadcasting in Northern Scotland, they could still be re-used in London without causing interference to each other.

The question of whether or not it is a good use of spectrum or not remains valid though. As an example, the programme schedule of TwoLochs FM shows that on a week-day, between 09.00 and 17.00, for a total of 8 hours, the station relays programmes from Prime Time Radio - a service which is available in the same coverage area via Sky Television on channel 0132. Now clearly any small scale radio station has to fill its schedule somehow and the availability of cheap 'filler' services such as this is no doubt a real boon for them, but it's not the local community service that the station was licensed to provide. Would it not be better to provide a local 'juke-box' service played out from a computer hard-drive which could be loaded with requests each week - at least that way the service retains a local feel.

As much as local or community radio initiatives such as this are to be applauded and the hard work of the staff and volunteers who run the station should be appreciated, the question of whether or not they represent an effective use of the radio spectrum remains largely open.
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