UNCERTAINTY surrounds the future of DAB radio stations in Winchester and Basingstoke after their operator entered liquidation.

UK DAB Networks has started proceedings for voluntary liquidation due to the business no longer being “viable”.

The company currently operates 19 community radio stations in Winchester and 13 in Basingstoke, which will either be taken over by new owners or be stripped of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB).

Without DAB, some of the stations could be forced to close.

All the networks have clubbed together to form a consortium and start making a business plan, in hope of staying on DAB.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester Radio would be able to continue on FMWinchester Radio would be able to continue on FM (Image: Adele Bouchard)

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The digital airwaves, provided a lifeline to the radio social enterprises, coming out of the pandemic and into the cost-of-living crisis, when it was introduced around a year ago.

Particularly for stations like, Basingstoke Community Radio, Hospital Radio Basingstoke and Winchester Today, that aren’t available on FM.

Osman Sen-Chadun from another local station Outreach Radio has been leading the consortium, with the hope that the liquidator will be able to transfer the licence to the group if Ofcom allows.

All the stations are still available on DAB but Mr Sen-Chadun said they could lose connection any day.

If cut from DAB, the networks would not be able to get it back for around two years as they would have to restart the Ofcom licencing process from scratch.

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Mr Sen-Chadun, from Chandler’s Ford, said: “The risk is radio stations could go under if not protected. It’s terrible really when you consider all the organisations we are talking about. To not have these stations which do a lot to support local people would be a really big blow to everyone.

“Losing DAB is a very big deal for us. We’re slightly different to community stations which have a certain patch as we’re Hampshire wide.

“Winchester is part of our heartland area. Losing Winchester and Basingstoke would leave a gaping hole in our coverage between Aldershot and the south. We’ve had to freeze all commercial deals and talk to existing customers. We just don’t know how this is going to play out.

“We’re seeing if there is a way to transfer the licences to the group we have set up but Ofcom would have to validate if that is suitable.

“It’s heartbreaking as UK DAB was more than just a supplier. Ash Elford (company owner) was a pioneer of DAB, it was his dream but we also have to find a way that this closure doesn’t have a knock on to us.

“Outreach Radio was born in the pandemic and DAB has been incredibly helpful in allowing us to get into local areas. To be able to grow the service like that would not normally be affordable.

“Some of the consortium would be able to hang on without DAB. I’m sorry to say that it’s highly probable that some might not make it through this. If we don’t have the airwaves it will be a hell of a blow.”

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DAB also allowed stations like VoiceFM and Awaaz in Southampton to be aired in Winchester. Unlike FM, listeners to DAB do not have to find the right wavelength, with the digital sound having a greater range and quality.

In a statement to service providers, UKDAB owner Ash Elford, said: “I am gutted that it has come to this having spent the last eight years working hard on small scale DAB.

“I am disappointed that I have not been able to make a success of Winchester and Basingstoke. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t make this business viable.”

The liquidation process is being handled by Stones & Co. It has been contacted for comment.