What is SSDAB?
For some time, UK media regulator Ofcom has been encouraging radio stations to use DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasts). Whilst great for large commercial channels, DAB has proved to be prohibitively expensive for smaller broadcasters, like community stations. Consequently, Ofcom introduced a new system for these groups called Small Scale DAB (SSDAB).
Small Scale DAB is a great opportunity. Not only for community broadcasters but also other non-profit broadcasters and small commercial stations. By making use of innovative techniques and new technology, SSDAB is much less expensive that the traditional DAB providers. Additionally, as a non-profit organisation, we’re committed to keeping our prices low
Who We Are
Unlike traditional ‘analogue’ radio, each DAB transmitter can broadcast numerous channels. For this reason, groups of smaller stations are being encouraged to set up their own SSDAB transmitters. They can then tailor services to their needs.
The Alternative Broadcast Company (ABC) was set up in 2016 specifically for this purpose. Since then, we’ve been working with the various local stations in Stoke and Newcastle to prepare for a licence application. Following successful pilot schemes around the UK, Ofcom is now starting permanent projects. A licence for North Staffordshire was advertised earlier this year and ABC has submitted an application on behalf of local stations. Should Ofcom award the licence to us, we hope to start broadcasts at some point in 2022, bringing Small Scale DAB to Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme
Ethos and values
ABC, has been set up as a Non-Profit company. SSDAB was originally set up to serve and facilitate the non-profit community media sector. So we want to do things differently to reflect this. In practice this means three things:-
- Focus: ABC will be focussed, primarily on meeting the need of local community broadcasters.
- Affordability: Fees charged to broadcasters will be kept as low as possible, particularly for the community sector.
- Fairness: Any profits made will be invested back into local community media, supporting the important work this sector does in our local neighbourhoods.
So, whether your station is community, non-profit or commercial you can rest assured that we will be keeping prices as low as possible and that, by taking part, you are helping the amazing work carried out by community stations. This includes providing training, community development, increasing the aspirations of local people and highlighting important social issue that matter to each neighbourhood. For example, Community radio has played a huge part in tackling issues cause by the global Corona Virus pandemic, connecting groups that had become isolated and being a source of trusted information.
In all likelihood, we were not the only local applicant for the Stoke and Newcastle SSDAB licence. We were aware of at least two other groups that may apply on a commercial basis. However, we believe ABC’s ‘alternative’ approach is a unique opportunity, providing SSDAB in a way that truly serves the local community.
Since starting the project 5 years ago we’ve had time to carry out extensive research of transmission sites, investigating over 20 different locations around the area. We’ve settled on a central location as we’ve found that this provides the best overall coverage of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme.
To maximise their audience, we will be encouraging stations to use a DAB+ signal (most new DAB radio sets can pick up DAB+ broadcasts) which is a more robust than the traditional DAB broadcast.
The green areas of the map represent good indoor reception. In the yellow areas, reception is still good for mobile use. (e.g. in cars, outside or on foot.)
The predicted total potential population that our signal will be reach is just over 310,000 people.
what else do i need to know?
How much will you charge?
We’re not making our fees available, publicly, at the moment but we’re happy to chat to people individually about what we are proposing to charge. Just get in touch using the contact details below. However, here’s how the pricing system will work, in general terms:-
As a non-profit, we want to keep costs as low as possible but give our biggest discounts to the local community stations making a difference in our area. Consequently, we’re proposing a 2 tier pricing structure with stations falling in to one of two categories:-.
C-DSP Licencees* (Local Non-Profits): These will be the community and charitable organisations, based in Stoke and Newcastle that hold C-DSP licences. (Community – Digital Sound Programme.) These organisations will receive preferential access to the transmitter.
DSP Licencees* (All other stations): Other channels will hold a DSP Licence (Digital Sound Programme). These might include stations run by Charities, CIC’s and other not-for-profits based outside the area. They also include commercial stations aimed at the local area or channels with a national or regional focus that want to extend their reach using SSDAB. Whilst not benefitting from the same preferential access as C-DSP stations, our non-profit ethos will ensure that we keep prices as low as possible.
*C-DSP and DSP licences are administered directly by Ofcom through a relatively straight-forward application process. (See the links below for more details of this.) Stations who already broadcast in other areas of the UK may already have a DSP licence and Ofcom have opened applications for C-DSP licences in the Stoke and Newcastle Area. However, if you only wish to broadcast in Stoke and Newcastle we recommend waiting until Ofcom have announced when broadcasts will be able to commence before applying for a licence. (We don’t know how long it will take Ofcom to make a decision on this.)
Is There a Minimum Contract Length?
In short, no. To encourage take-up, we’re proposing an ‘Easy in – Easy Out’ approach i.e. there will be no minimum contract length. A one off set-up fee for each new station will apply to cover the costs of additional equipment and configuration. However, we will wave this set-up fee for stations committing to a minimum term of three months and paying in advance.
When will you start broadcasting?
Ofcom closed applications on 1st September this year (2021). So given the normal timescale for applications, we’d expect to be on air at some point next year (2022), should we be awarded the licence by Ofcom. Demand for space on the transmitter has been high. If the expressions of interest we have received already are fulfilled, we are already likely to be nearing full capacity. However, we would still welcome enquiries from new stations as we will be operating on a first come, first served basis. So the sooner you express an interest, the better. Just use the contact details below.
Do I Need Any Specialist Equipment or Special Internet Connection?
Most radio stations are already broadcasting on the internet and it’s a relatively simple process to adapt this to send a signal to our transmitter. Most internet connections will easily have enough capacity to carry your signal. Providing that your studio isn’t in the middle of nowhere, a normal fibre internet connection will be fine.
Will VAT be added on top of the fees?
Fees will not be subject to VAT. As a non-profit dedicated to keeping costs low we will stay under the VAT threshold.
Start Date: As mentioned above, our target start date will be the middle of next year and so no payments will be necessary until at least April 2022.
There’s a big broadcasting mast at the top of the page? Is that your transmitter?
No. Just a nice picture of an iconic North Staffs broadcasting landmark, Fenton TV mast!
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Registered Office: 31 Chamberlain Ave, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 5EN