Digital radio now available in isles – but not Radio Scotland

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.


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Johnston

    • August 26th, 2011 11:42

    Digital radio you say, is that a new fangled thing? No, thought not. It has taken how many years to get even this limited service to Shetland? Oh wait though, what radio station would many in Shetland like to hear in better clarity, radio Scotland perhaps? Nae luck!

    Last night I wanted to listen to a live commentary on radio Scotland, a football match. Turns out the BBC maybe did me a favour but that is by the way.

    The game was to be broadcast on 810mw but I just can’t listen to the radio through the rustle of trees and the cacophony of other noise medium wave masks the station with up here.

    I used to be able to listen through the telly freeview channels but the powers that be at the BBC have ceased that service recently after 5pm for some bizarre reason. It was until a few weeks back also available to stream online but that has gone as well.

    I am paying the same licence fee as anyone else in the country, should I not get a rebate for the services they don’t deliver to me?

    While I am on, can anyone at the BBC tell me why I can watch Scottish football highlights on Saturday night in Gaelic but not in English? Do the Gaelic speaking population pay a higher telly tax for that service?

  • Alastair Hamilton

    • August 26th, 2011 12:38

    I’d caution against buying a new radio on the basis of DAB’s alleged ‘improved sound quality’. Because DAB signals are compressed to fit them into the available bandwidth, the sound quality is regarded by many as worse than FM (assuming, of course, a strong signal in both cases). Common criticisms are that DAB can sound muffled and harsh; and, when I’ve listened to DAB where the signal is less than perfect, the strange bubbling sounds made me wonder if I’d dropped the radio in the sink.

    Until better technologies such as DAB+ or DRM+ arrive, the better options are good old FM or digital radio via satellite, Freeview or even the internet. There’s no shortage of debate on the web about this: just Google DAB sound quality.

  • Ken Fletcher

    • August 26th, 2011 23:16

    BBC Radio Scotland should be available Online.

    Ken Fletcher

  • Colin Hunter

    • August 28th, 2011 0:06

    I am already the owner of a DAB (capable|) Mini HiFi and have been for nearly two years. I didn’t buy it specifically becacuse it had that facility, it was justy included in the spec. I live in Busta (Brae) and I was at one time able to receive all the Bressay freeview channels via a loft aerial. Now that the analogue has been switched off and the “local” transmitters enabled for digital signals, I find that most of the Bressay channels have diminished in quality to the point of being unwatchable. I can now only get the ones transmitted from Weisdale in watchable quality. Therefore I won’t be holding my breath waiting for a DAB signal in Brae! I was under the impression that the Bressay transmitter was to be increased in strength after the “Digital revolution”. That appears not to be the case in my experience. Also, WHY is it that some channels that are available FREE on terrestrial digital TV, for example. Dave, Quest, and Yesterday, are only available as part of a “SKY” package on satellite, which must be paid for? Surely that, in itself, must be illegal! SERIOUSLY DISGRUNTLED!

  • William Sandison

    • August 29th, 2011 9:23

    Spot on Alastair. In fact the whole DAB rollout is a farce. As well as the quality issue, Google future of DAB. As far as I can see DAB doesn’t have a future. Best to lobby your local councillor and MP for better Internet connectivity to Shetland and within Shetland, and listen to content via the Web, until the whole digital radio debacle is sorted out.

  • Sarah Thompson

    • August 29th, 2011 12:01

    As a new arrival in Shetland (and not a subscriber to cable/satellite) I’m delighted to be getting an excellent quality digital signal in West Yell. Having lived through the Lancashire switchover, my understanding is that the whole of the UK remains in a transition phase of rolling out Digital so there are bound to be issues. I’m also very surprised our Freeview & DAB service is considerably better in Yell than that of my father-in-law in the metropolis of Liverpool who continue to suffer regular disruption from the Welsh transmitters.

  • Colin Hunter

    • August 29th, 2011 14:12

    In reply to Sarah, The digital signal in West Yell should be second only to Lerwick as you are “Line of sight” to at least two transmitters, Collafirth and Swinister. Depending on how high up you are you may also be able to get direct access to Bressay. The only transmitter I can see clearly is the Wiesdale one which does not broadcast all the Freeview channels. If you are getting all the channels as well as DAB, you’re probably one of the lucky ones who can use Bressay. A shame that the powers that be decree that a 2 tier level of service is acceptable. There would soon be hell on if we who cannot receive all the channels reduced our licence fee and paid “Pro Rata” for what we could receive!


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