Heart FM enters North Devon radio debate

Joseph Bulmer

THE parent company of Heart FM has said it is prepared to fund the expansion of the digital radio network into North Devon.

Sara Bond, Heart South West’s managing director told the North Devon Gazette a consultation by watchdog Ofcom over an application to extend the DAB digital radio service to this area was “not the end of local radio in North Devon.”

“Everyone who can receive FM today will still be able to do so,” she said.

“Digital switchover in radio, similar to what is happening in TV, is a long term ambition but no decision has been made on whether this will happen, let alone when.

“Heart and BBC Devon will continue to provide the local content we currently do on FM and the proposals will make it possible for more local stations to launch.

“Initially, the new digital services will be the same in North and South Devon but in the future it will be possible for different stations to broadcast in North and South Devon on digital radio.”

Mrs Bond was responding on behalf of Heart FM to fears by some campaigners that 30 per cent of those who listen to local commercial radio or BBC Radio Devon will no longer be able to when FM transmitters are switched off.

“The Government has said that no switchover will happen until digital coverage matches FM and the vast majority of listeners are listening on DAB digital radio,” she added.

She said listeners would not only be able to continue enjoying their local stations, but also enjoy others such as Absolute Classic Rock, Capital, Kiss FM and XFM that are not currently available on FM.

“In order to receive the new services a new transmitter network will be built.

Coverage will grow over time, from half of homes in North Devon at launch growing to 70 per cent after 2013 as more people buy DAB digital radios. More transmitters would be needed after that to match FM coverage,” Mrs Bond continued.

“Other parts of the country benefit from having DAB digital radio and North Devon should not be left behind.”

View Ofcom’s consultation and submit an opinion by going to https://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/dab-north-devon/howtorespond/form or email sara.bond@thisisglobal.com. Alternatively write to Exeter and Torbay Consultation, FAO Andrea Jackson, OFCOM, Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 9HA.