Pop Up Radio

It’s great to learn this morning that Radio 2 is launching a new pop-up radio station (ie. a temporary one).

There is going to be a short term Radio 2 Eurovision service in the run-up to the big competition in May. The only previous time they’ve done this was during the Olympics when as well as Five Live, and Five Live Sports Extra, they launched Olympics Extra.

Australia is the pioneer of the pop-up service, having launched services for commercial and news reasons: for a Pink tour and when wild fires were ravaging the country were just a couple of them.

The reality is that this will cost the BBC hardly anything at all. The transmission is already covered, and the broadcast chains are already in place – used for red button or online services. A couple more producers and engineers will probably be needed, but the reality is that these kinds of services are remarkably cheap to do.

This begs the question – why don’t we see more of them?

This was something I always wanted to see happen, but there were a number of factors that mitigated against it.

If you look around – particularly at your local DAB mulitplexes, you’ll probably see that there is space for new services to “pop-up.” But the mux owners aren’t really set-up to offer the capacity this way. In the main the companies are run by people who do other things day to day. So the prospect of having to go through the process of offering and setting up stations for short terms doesn’t appeal. Then there’s the fact that they’re really looking for long term services. Why mess around selling capacity by the month if you can tie someone in for three, five or ten years? That’s much simpler to operate.

Then there’s the licencing regime. If I want to launch “Bowie Radio” on multiplex, once I’ve persuaded a multiplex owner to take my money for just a month, and I’ve worked out a satisfactory engineering solution to get the signal to the multiplex operator (e.g. Arqiva). That could just be via IP.

But then I have to get the multiplex owner to put an amendment in for its licence to Ofcom. Then I have to wait for Ofcom to have one of its regular meetings where changes are approved. Finally I get the go ahead, and I can be up and running within perhaps 6-8 weeks. That’s fine if I know about something ahead of time, but in the commercial world, having 6-8 weeks to put something together from final sign-off is a complete luxury. It just doesn’t happen. So despite the fact that an advertiser could easily launch a station, none has so far done so.

Then there’s the fact that even if I can get through all these hoops, I’m only reaching a single location. Prices can jump quite a lot if you want to get quasi national coverage. And if you want true national coverage? Well you’re out of luck as there’s no space.

It’d be nice in the future if once D2 is launched, there was perhaps a small amount of space – DAB+? – that was held over for pop-up services. Both service providers could utilise it for event such as the Isle of Wight Festival or V Festival, and advertisers too.

Note to anyone reading this and working in commercial radio: LOTS of advertisers would love to sponsor a Christmas service. Time to start planning that right now! (Seriously – you don’t think those Christmas TV ad campaigns aren’t already being planned?)

(Of course, there has been loads of radio news happening while I’ve been away, and I can’t say that I’m on top of it all – particularly everything coming out of Radiodays Europe which I’d loved to have gone to. But the two things that please me are that Bauer Radio is keeping One Golden Square and will be investing in building new studios and a new performance area (Zoo 2?), moving all its national brands into the building. The other really interesting news is that the BBC is going to experiment with DAB+. It’s good to see the BBC utilising its DAB capacity to try different things.)





2 responses to “Pop Up Radio”

  1. ashelford avatar

    Hi Adam.

    I launched Pop Up Radio on DAB in 2009 when I worked for Arqiva. It can be used by anyone broadcasting some kind of event. It has a very wooly format, and is carried on all local Arqiva DAB multiplexes except for South Hampshire (and the 3 new ones).

    When I was responsible for local DAB I had the following broadcasts (in no particular order):

    Radio Lapland
    Xmas Xtra
    Manx Radio TT (x2)
    Angel Radio
    Norwich Children’s Hospital Radio
    Celtic Music Radio
    Exchange Radio

    And probably some others I’ve forgotten. Since I left the channel has been used less frequently, but has still seen the likes of French Radio London along with more Isle of Mann TT and Celtic Music Radio.

    I think this proves the basic radio therom that if something doesn’t exist in London it does not exist at all!

  2. adambowie avatar

    I’m not saying it *hasn’t* been done – but it’s basically seen as a massive inconvenience. Mux operators don’t really want to waste time on something that’s not going to make or break their balance sheet. And it’s an administrative mess.

    French Radio London was a full time station incidentally.

    It’s good if UTV and Folder are looking at short term “RSL” type services such as those surrounding Ramadan.

    And there’s no reason a station that wants to do an RSL can’t go on a mux. But unless you’ve already got the relevant Ofcom licences (mostly owned by the traditional groups) then it gets more complicated.

    The fact is that relatively few are done but there’s lots of capacity. And there are also lots of people who’d like to run a station – even for a short period of time. Something isn’t adding up. And I don’t believe it’s just cost.