Around three quarters of Shetlanders should now be able to enjoy most BBC radio channels in all their digital glory after the DAB signal was switched on at transmitters in Scalloway and Bressay this week.
The BBC said around 17,000 islanders should now be able to receive digital transmission of all its stations apart from Radio Scotland and Radio nan Gàidheal.
Virtually all of the South and Central Mainland should be covered, while listeners in parts of Northmavine, Whalsay, Skerries, Fetlar, Yell and Unst should also be able to receive the signal. Channels which islanders should now be able to tune into include BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, 5Live, 1Extra, 6Music, 5Live extra, the BBC World Service and the Asian network.
DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) was first rolled out nationally by the BBC in 1997. But up until now anyone in Shetland who wanted to listen to the improved sound quality of digital radio had to do so by streaming stations over the internet through a computer or laptop. A BBC spokesman said Radio Scotland could not be transmitted in the same way at the moment because it is broadcast on “commercial multiplexes”, but that could change in the future.
SIBC broadcaster Ian Anderson told The Shetland Times he would “never” consider broadcasting his music and local news station on DAB, but might consider the DRM+ format because it is cheaper and “we can operate it ourselves just like we operate our FM transmitter”. “It has far greater coverage from a single site (DAB is multiple sites) and quality can be better,” he said.
More than 10 million DAB radios have been sold in the UK and around a quarter of radio’s UK listening hours are now on a digital platform. But the continued presence of FM receivers in homes and particularly in cars, where the switch to digital radio has been particularly sluggish, has led to some questioning whether plans to switch off the analogue transmission of most national stations by 2015 is realistic.