Local radio’s “rebirth” heralded for Tyneside
In a move heralded as “the rebirth of local radio,” around 450,000 people on Tyneside can now tune into more local stations than ever before following to the roll-out of new digital technology.
Thanks to the award of one of the first new UK licences for small-scale DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio, Newcastle-based Tyneside Community Digital (TCD), is now hosting 19 radio stations on the DAB platform with more joining in the coming weeks, and is inviting applications from further local broadcasters seeking to reach a wider listenership.
TCD was set up with the support of four local community radio stations: Nova Radio, Pride Radio, Spice FM, and Radio Tyneside. They are now able to broadcast via DAB for the first time, allowing them to reach listeners not covered by their existing FM radio transmissions.
New local stations hosted by TCD include nostalgia station Memory Lane Radio, dance anthem station Dance Revolution, Frisk Radio, and Durham based services Ambron Radio and Durham On-Air.
TCD co-founder Richard Finch said: “This could be described as the rebirth of local radio. As one of the first organisations in the country to be granted one of the new licences by Ofcom last year, we’re delighted to be able to give listeners an unprecedented choice of locally produced content, serving communities in a way never seen before.
“We’ve had a phenomenal response from stations wanting to be part of our line-up, which is fantastic news for listeners. More and more people are choosing to listen to radio via DAB, so this is a welcome move for community broadcasters and the many other stations on the platform which are creating a truly diverse set of stations catering to many tastes.”
Sandeep Kapoor, TCD Director and station manager of community radio station Spice FM added: “We’re passionate about local broadcasting and making it accessible. That’s why we’re free for up to 7 Ofcom-licenced community stations and offer carriage to small stations at very little cost, creating a community of local broadcasters who can provide unprecedented choice for the people of Newcastle and Gateshead.”
The non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) was set up in 2020 to support the digital development of community radio and is now operating via two transmitters – one at Sheriff Hill in Gateshead and the other on a tower block in Newcastle.
To complete the channel line-up, local broadcasters are now being invited to apply for the few remaining channels, as are pop-up stations seeking to broadcast for a short period, for example during festivals such as Ramadan or Christmas.
TCD benefitted from expert support from the social enterprise team at the North East BIC, which is itself one of the region’s longest-established social enterprises. The team offers free specialist support to new and established non-profit organisations at every stage of their development.
Richard added: “The support of the BIC has been transformative for us. The team guided us through the process of becoming a CIC and helped us to secure funding which has been crucial in achieving our aims to date.”
TCD also benefitted from investment provided by the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund received via Key Fund and funded by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of the legacy of the Great Exhibition in the North.
Local broadcasters interested in applying to be hosted on the DAB service must hold an Ofcom licence and should register their interest at www.tynesidecommunitydigital.co.uk