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Absolute Radio on 1215 / 1197 to be switched off.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,089 ✭✭✭Glaceon


    Yep, must have been some shock to move from 647 which was a clear frequency for the most part. Although I recall reading that even as early as 1978, most Radio 3 listeners were on FM so it wasn't as much of an issue.



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    True.

    Incidentally, Absolute Radio on 1215 from Northern Ireland is now also turned off. It was the last frequency still on air. Apparently the technician had to take the ferry or the airplane to get there....



  • Registered Users Posts: 4,651 ✭✭✭Infoanon


    Shortly after the last TX was turned off Bauer informed the UK regulator that it had turned off its AM transmitters.....8 years ahead of schedule !

    Bauer now have to explain their actions which will see the AM licence revoked and a fine .

    How big that fine will be is unknown , and there is an additional issue around DAB coverage as the DAB distribution was a result of holding the AM licence.......

    Separately there have been a few reports of Bauer turning down the power on some of its FM outlets but nothing official.

    Re 5 live & Talk sport, the last Rajar showed 40% AM listenership.



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    I've read about that fine somewhere. However that fine is a possibility, not a yet a given fact. I don't think this would catch Bauer by surprise, they must have calculated with that, after all they renewed the 1215 / 1197 only in 2021 and must have been aware of the small print. I think the AM license would have been until 2031 or so?

    I would doubt very much that BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSport would have a 40% listenership on AM. Possibly just negative coverage to discredit DAB or so? Reports I've read were that TalkSport would no longer be commercially viable on AM from 2025 and onward and the BBC already announced plans to shut down AM completely, but a date hasn't been given yet. Or I think I've also read something about 2030 or 2032 or so?



  • Registered Users Posts: 4,651 ✭✭✭Infoanon


    The figures are the official figures, not anecdotal or an attempt to discredit DAB !

    Talksport will not leave AM before 5 live.



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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe




  • Registered Users Posts: 4,651 ✭✭✭Infoanon


    'Declining ' not dwindling.

    There proposal was a reaction to Absolute switching oFF some of its AM TXs.

    If 40% of your audience are listening on AM and your main competitor is also on AM you are not going to be leaving AM anytime soon.



  • Registered Users Posts: 118 ✭✭Annascaul


    AM radio has a similar future as the steam engine had. It's dying! Whether it's a slow death or a quick death, whether it's declining or dwindling is up for debate. It certainly is not a growing market anymore and the usage of AM is clearly downward with no indication of an upward reversal.

    In the end it's a question on how many listeners do I reach and what cost do I have in transmitting. The majority of UK listeners listen via some digital device, whether it's DAB or a stream doesn't matter and transmitting via AM isn't exactly the cheapest option. Even FM is declining in the UK.

    Absolute Radio or Virgin Radio as it was called on 1215 was very popular on AM in the 90ies, but then listenership numbers on AM declined continuously.

    I would expect all British AM stations to go by 2027 at the latest. High cost and one crisis after another will probably do it sooner.

    http://www.frequencyfinder.org.uk/Opinion_AM.pdf

    British AM radio is also not there to cater for listeners in the Republic of Ireland, their market is the UK.



  • Registered Users Posts: 605 ✭✭✭TAFKAlawhec


    Re: The "investigation" by Ofcom by Bauer switching off their MW network for Absolute Radio - it was confirmed back when they were seeking (and got) permission to close some low power sites and reduce the ERP of the main high power sites from Absolute Radio that at any stage the owners of the station could formally hand back the INR2 MW licence without penalty at any time. If Bauer are playing stupid gits by not formally handing back the INR2 licence ASAP or with notice, then they deserve to be fined (plus it'll not help their relationship with Ofcom in the future if they want some concession etc.) but it's largely a storm in a tea cup for now and any fine is likely to be negligible in the greater scheme of things. As concerning capacity on the Digital 1 DAB ensemble, the rules as I understand it for the INR stations are that they are given "priority" preference for any available capacity. In theory, were the INR2 licence to be re-advertised and awarded, then the new licence holder would be able to gain preference to any newly available capacity on Digital 1 were it to become available - but this wouldn't affect Absolute Radio in its current form as long as they remain on the platform. In any case, Ofcom haven't signalled any intention to readvertise the licence, though wherever it might be forced legally to do so due to the conditions in the UK Broadcasting Act 1990?

    To to MW listening concerning BBC 5 Live & Talk Sport, the last figures I seen for both stations gave around 30-35% of their listeners or listening hours accessing the station via MW transmissions. I suspect that most such listening cases are in cars where the radio hasn't DAB available, or with bedroom clock radios. Otherwise they're available on DAB, Freeview, satellite (both Sky & Freesat), Virgin Media & online for home listening. As more older cars get taken off the road and newer cars are being fitted with DAB as standard in all cases, even a relatively low bitrate MP2 DAB broadcast is almost always better than listening to the MW broadcasts from both stations with suffer a lot from co-channel interference & fading where recent observations of both networks shows that co-channel transmitters are well out of sync with each other. 2027 is the provisional date being penciled in for the shutdown of all MW broadcasts in the UK (with a few exceptions possibly for community broadcasters - I can see Radio Caroline wanting to keep going), and Talk Sport have already shut own a few of their low-powered fillers inc. the one in Derry. Another issue for these broadcasters is that in terms of equipment, maintenance & electricity costs, MW transmitters are relatively expensive to run for a declining audience, something like 2% of the total radio listening in the UK but 35% of the electric & maintenance costs.

    Also, to be fair to Absolute & Virgin before it, they knew when they launched nearly 30 years ago that they had a sub-standard transmission network even back then, so they were often one of the first in the UK - if not thee first - to use or promote alternative listening methods. For example, Richard Branson was looking to get the station on to FM by replacing BBC Radio 4's FM network (Good luck with that! Although by that stage the 105-108 MHz portion of the FM Band was still empty of broadcasts in the UK), they got an FM licence for London, they made sure they got in plenty of low-powered filler stations in key population centres that had reception issues on 1215 kHz, they promoted receiving the station on analogue satellite in the 90's more than pretty much any other national station did that also was available (it used two audio subcarrier channels on the same transponder as Sky News) and later on were on Sky Digital pretty much from the start, they started internet streaming in the mid-90's (1996 I think) and even more than 20 years ago they were promoting their availability on DAB, giving away receivers as prizes on air, to promoting high-bitrate internet streams including lossless FLAC & OGG formats - unfortunately Bauer taking over the station saw these high-bitrate streams close down, with the "free" streams now limited to MP3 & AAC formats, 128kbps at best.

    We're well in the twilight years of MW & LW radio in this part of the world, even the Spanish broadcasters aren't replacing any MW transmitters that are breaking down., and scanning the MW band here at night would see about half of all frequencies if not more occupied by a Spanish TX The only country that seems to be maintaining their multiple AM networks for now is Romania (as well as Ukraine & Russia bring out some TXs that were mothballed - though these are extraordinary circumstances and it's debatable wherever these broadcasts have more than a negligible effect in terms of propaganda/narrative).



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    Romania has many AM transmitters still broadcasting, whether they are really listened to, I don't know. Technology is also advancing in this country.

    Spain is an interesting one, they do have more than good coverage on FM across the country, but have the same broadcasts simultaneously on AM? And that for no real apparent reason.

    Radio Caroline is interesting. I'd say, if they had a more solid financial background then maybe they might even be interested in the 1215 network. Incidentally Radio Caroline is one of the radio stations which will always be associated by their audience with AM, they used to broadcast from a vessel on AM way back when, similar to Veronica in the Netherlands.

    I was always surprised why Richard Branson wanted the BBC Radio 4 network for Virgin Radio or more, and also why the UK had such limited options on FM? Given the fact that the UK is also an island and they would have had many choices to coordinate another FM network for the whole of the UK it's actually quite a surprise to consider taking one BBC network. They have no neighboring countries to deal with, except maybe bits of France near Calais or the Republic of Ireland but the rest is pretty much open space for the UK to get many more FM transmitters coordinated, especially back then in the early 90ies. In the end, FM radio took also a lot longer in the UK to get established, - until 1993 many BBC stations were not on FM nationwide, only on AM.

    The only problem Absolute Radio will have regarding reception on DAB is in Scotland, especially the North of Scotland and the Scottish Borders, where DAB coverage is limited, - for whatever reason. AM would have been the better choice, or they finally invest in more transmitters in these areas?

    Older cars will probably leave British roads a lot sooner, environmental regulations will see to that and a lot more cars in the UK which are 10 years or older do have DAB at this time already.



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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,313 ✭✭✭Antenna


    This is old news from 3 years ago, 2020 and was already implemented then.

    It was the closure of 7 smaller sites (the southwest of England being particularly impacted with 4 sites there closed) :

    "closing seven transmitter sites. These transmitters are located at Rosemarkie (Inverness), Redruth (Cornwall), Redmoss (Aberdeen), Londonderry (Northern Ireland), Occombe (Devon), Plummers Barracks (Plymouth) and Pearce’s Hall (Devon). "

    The closure of the Derry 1053 transmitter would obviously have impacted neighboring Donegal as well with areas which would have had a good reception from it (the site continues to transmit BBC on MW:.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@55.0052288,-7.3680819,3a,75y,190.26h,102.94t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAAjCqo3_8DNwvODYZJUDzw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    http://tx.mb21.co.uk/gallery/gallerypage.php?txid=890

    Post edited by Antenna on


  • Registered Users Posts: 118 ✭✭Annascaul


    It may be old news but this news certainly doesn't spell growth on AM for Talksport.

    Also wondering, is it possible that Virgin Radio might return to the 1215? They are on DAB in the UK.



  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    AM might be dead but Bauer Media Group definitely see life in FM because they are trying to get Greatest hits radio on as many FM frequencies as possible before Ken Bruce starts. Indeed Chris Evans and Graham Norton haven't done well at all in the rajars on DAB only stations



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,313 ✭✭✭Antenna



    That sounds like an 'internet myth' put out that someone had take take the ferry or airplane over from GB to just power it down. Where did you get that from? Do you think they (Arqiva) have no staff based within Northern Ireland who couldn't do this, despite all the TV (Freeview) , FM, DAB transmitters they as well maintain in Northern Ireland?

    Some significant engineering work may well involve additional expertise being brought in. But just powering one of these transmitters down, no.



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    As I wrote "apparently".

    And this additional expertise may also be true. I think they have an old Blaw Knox mast there? It's probably one of the last remaining ones in Europe. I think Hungary as one as well and one in Bulgaria. In the US they may still have 5 or 7 of them left?



  • Registered Users Posts: 605 ✭✭✭TAFKAlawhec


    The Lisnagarvey site is the HQ of Arqiva's Northern Irish operations. The idea of them "having to send" someone over by plane or boat to switch off the 1215 kHz TX is close to idiotic - it's not a TX site located on some remote Scottish island, besides I'd say it could be turned off remotely if needed. In saying that, the last few hours of 1215 kHz from Lisnagavery with the closure announcement running did sound like it was on reduced power.

    Also, yes there is a Blau-Knox mast at Lisnagarvey as well as a more generic T-aerial slung between two lattice masts. To the best of my knowledge only the Radio 4 LW service on 720 kHz is broadcast now from the Blau-Knox tower, with BBC 5 Live on 909 kHz and Talk Sport on 1089 kHz being radiated from the T-aerial.



    (P.S. The Blaw-Knox mast at Lisnagarvey is "decapitated" as when it was opened it originally used a lower frequency (somewhere around 900 kHZ I think) before it eventually settled in the 1950's on 1151 kHz, a frequency shared with the BBC Home Service North-East England region. When the BBC Home Service (NI Region) was then moved to 1340 kHz, the radiating length of the tower was too long for the wavelength being broadcast (beyond 5/8ths of the wavelength), causing a significant upward transmitting lobe and thus the fading areas (where groundwave & skywave from the same radiator mix together) was awfully close to the TX site so the only effective remedy was to shorten the tower so its radiation pattern didn't throw so much skywards and kept most of it at/near ground level.)

    (P.P.S. When it was on 1215 kHz, Absolute Radio was transmitted from the T-aerial).



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    Nothing is idiotic here.

    The Blaw Knox mast is self radiating, as I am sure you know. I've read about modified ones where they had some kind of motor inside, so change the height with a change of frequency ( I believe that was in Vienna before the war), as they believed it would be better. They may have decapitated the mast in NI for the same reason?



  • Registered Users Posts: 605 ✭✭✭TAFKAlawhec


    The original Blaw-Knox mast at Lisnagarvey did have an adjustable pole at the top with a round capacitive top-hat that would have allowed it to be "tuned " to supposedly provide the best groundwave or anti-fading coverage. From the link below, the original operating frequency was 977 kHz - and also pointed out how the flaws of the shape of the radiating mast meant that the BBC never commissioned another such mast anywhere else.


    Post edited by TAFKAlawhec on


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    One could say the size of the mast is directly related to the frequency they broadcast on.

    The Blaw Knox mast in Vienna Austria had a similar adjustable pole but it wasn't chopped off like the one in Lisnagarvey.

    The mast in Vienna was destroyed during the war.

    I believe the Blaw Knox mast in Hungary is the 873 kHz whilst the 540 kHz is the Soviet made transmitter?





  • Talksport on 1089AM from Lisnagarvey (Lisburn) has a horrible echo on it here in Dundalk (on a car radio) which makes it impossible to listen to. BBC R5 on 909 from the same location is ok. During the day I get good reception for Talksport on 1107. Comes from Wallasey (Merseyside) I think.



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  • Registered Users Posts: 605 ✭✭✭TAFKAlawhec


    All transmitting aerials have their radiating elements correspond to a large extent to the transmission frequency they are used for - this is no different for MW & LW broadcast transmissions. Ideally for good groundwave coverage from a site at such frequencies you're looking for a radiating mast, tower or some other element (e.g. sloping wire, like is used for the MW transmissions on Sherrif's Mountain in Derry or Crystal Palace in London) correspond to a length between 0.25 to 0.62 of the wavelength to be broadcast. Usually it is the case outside of this that the radiating element(s) are less than 0.25 of a wavelength long, but at long as the mast isn't too short to use it can be used at the expense of some efficiencies e.g. the main radiation lobe being a bit higher than ideal, and less TX power received at the antenna being radiated** - however a radiating element beyond a length of 0.62 wavelengths is to be avoided at pretty much all costs because beyond this the lobes start to become "broken up" with more of the power directed skywards and less hugging along close to the ground, hence the likes of the Blaw-Know mast at Lisnagarvey getting decapitated - even on the link on my last post, they mention that even going to 0.62 (or 5/8ths) of a wavelength is getting uncomfortably close to having a significant high-angle component reducing the fading-free area, and that the ideal would be just over 0.5 (or 1/2) a wavelength long. Then you might introduce complications where multiple transmissions might use the same radiator - some setups in the UK used to have up to five services broadcast from the same antenna (this included the Derry & Enniskillen sites in the past), but if they don't have services using tens of kW of power each and they aren't too close in frequency to each other, then it's less of a problem.

    Again, as the linked article mentioned, the ideal behind the Blaw-Knox design was one of marketing & hype than any actual breakthrough RF engineering discovery, and the BBC weren't going to get fooled again after Lisnagarvey was in service. And while some Blaw-Knox masts are local iconic landmarks in other parts of the world, there's no such sentiment for the Lisnagarvey one that I'm aware of. Once BBC Radio 4 is switched off on 720 kHz eventually, I reckon the mast will eventually be dismantled with little fuss.


    (** A lot of the low power RSL or MW community stations in the UK use or used to use quite short towers for the frequency the broadcast on, IIRC the 1 watt BFBS long-term RSL MW transmitters that they used to use in NI needed around 30-40 watts of transmitter power to give 1 watt ERP output, even when using an inductive loading coil to "tune" the antenna and a fairly modern & efficient AM transmitter.)



  • Registered Users Posts: 2,397 ✭✭✭tinytobe


    That "horrible echo" is a well known issue. It's about several AM transmitters not in sync. One doesn't notice the problem from within the UK, but the further one is away, the more the echo is noticeable.



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