THE future of DAB radio stations in Winchester and Basingstoke has been secured after they were taken over by local groups. 

UK DAB Networks, operator of the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) networks, had entered voluntary liquidation in October due to the business no longer being viable.

Under the leadership of Osman Sen-Chadun from Outreach Radio, two new local consortia were formed to develop new business plans with the hope that the liquidator would transfer the licences to the group.

On Wednesday, November 22 it was confirmed by Ofcom that the two new consortia had successfully taken over the DAB licences for Winchester and Basingstoke.

However, the DAB services are temporarily off-air pending urgent re-engineering works. 

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Reacting to the news, Nigel Dallard, Winchester Radio trustee, said: "It is disheartening that the DAB network has been switched off. However with the licence having been transferred by Ofcom to the consortium of local not-for-profit radio stations, including Winchester Radio, we look forward to being back on DAB in the coming weeks, after the necessary engineering work and final approval by Ofcom. In the meantime, listeners can continue to tune in to Winchester Radio on 94.7FM and online."

Mr Sen-Chadun, from Chandler’s Ford, said: “We’re very relieved and extremely fortunate to have been able to take on these DAB licences. It’s a lifeline that will enable us to ensure future continuity of service to all radio stations affected by the unfortunate demise of UK DAB Networks.

“Now begins some major re-engineering works, that will allow us to operate these services in a financially sustainable manner, which in turn will offer a greater level of protection to our valuable local radio services, many of which are charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations.

“The engineering work has to begin immediately as we’ve now taken on these licences, but it’s our firm intention to restore the radio services back to air as soon as possible.

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“This is an unprecedented situation, which requires administrative, legislative and engineering support from the broadcast regulatory body Ofcom, who have been incredibly supportive in advising our consortia during this process.

“We have shared our learnings with Ofcom so that they too may gain a clearer understanding of the issues and challenges we have faced, and in turn, may be able to advise and protect other licencees in the future.

“With Ofcom’s continued guidance and support, and in the hope that our new technical plans are accepted and signed off as soon as possible, we are certain that we can keep downtime to a minimum.

“Christmas advertising revenues are at risk for all radio stations impacted by these changes, and winter is never the ideal season to undertake this type of engineering work. 

“Although we would have preferred to carry out this work in the New Year, the timing was out of our control and we were forced by legal hurdles, but we have our lifeline, and will do our best whatever the weather.”

The new consortia comprise of Basingstoke Community Radio, Hospital Radio Basingstoke, Outreach Radio, Voice FM, Winchester Radio and Winchester Today.

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