Thursday, 26 September 2013

Why LBC 97.3 had to leave DAB in the regions

Copyright: Global Radio.
Over the last few months, the London speech station, LBC 97.3 has been gradually removed from multiplexes across the UK to make way for more profitable services due the consolidation of DAB services.

To improve DAB reception of local multiplexes, LBC with the exception of Glasgow and Edinburgh were on the MXR regional multiplexes.  MXR have decided not to renew their licences and the frequencies reused for local multiplexes, which arguably will improve digital reception of local services and give DAB reception for the first time to BBC local stations as more local muxes start broadcasting.

LBC started to gain regional DAB coverage in 2005 when DNN, which was a rolling news service provided by GMG and Chrysalis was axed.  However, the requirements for regional news and travel were required on the MXR multiplexes, so Chrysalis offered LBC as a sustaining service with those requirements replacing London news and travel.

Global Radio purchased Chrysalis in 2008 and the new owners requested the regional requirements to be removed, so all areas received the same bulletins as the London version.

As other media commentators have mentioned, those stations removed from MXR and not added to the local multiplexes had the lowest share in their regions.   LBC in the West Midlands had a reach of 5,000 listeners in the last Rajar quarter.  

It's common sense to concentrate on the area where LBC has the largest share of listeners and has 40 years of brand awareness, London.  Although the station discusses topics of national and international relevance, it is still a London-centric station which will heavily feature London politics, including a monthly phone in with the Mayor of London and covers London borough and Greater London Authority elections.   If an event, such as a pile-up on the North Circular Road or a extreme weather event in the capital happens, those few listeners listening in the North West or Yorkshire take second place to topics of relevance to the core audience inside the M25.

While I sympathise with listeners who have lost terrestrial coverage, Global Radio have tried their best to provide alternatives, such as recently acquiring a Freesat EPG slot, online apps for iPhone and Android, along with the current Sky EPG slot. 

LBC could have become the alternative to 5 Live and the former current affairs output on talkSPORT, however local commercial speech radio isn't simply viable outside London as seen with City Talk in Liverpool and Talk 107 in Edinburgh of which the latter closed and the Liverpool station now plays music.

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