WINCHESTER radio stations are back on the digital airwaves after being silenced for two and a half months.

Following a successful public consultation and the support OF Ofcom, all 19 radio stations using the Winchester Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) network, some broadcasting exclusively on DAB, are available again.

UK DAB Networks Limited entered voluntary liquidation in October causing the Winchester transmitter to shut down and halting the DAB transmissions of small-scale radio stations in the area.

Managing director of Outreach Radio, Osman Sen-Chadun, founded a new rescue consortium, including Winchester Radio, Winchester Today, Outreach Radio and Southampton’s Voice FM, to get the Ofcom licences and retrieve the equipment from the liquidators. On Thursday, February 8 they were back on air.

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Mr Sen-Chadun said: “The demise of UK DAB Networks and closure of the Winchester DAB network has had a profound and severely damaging effect on Outreach Radio, particularly as we were entering the Christmas period. The loss of service to Winchester in the heartland of our coverage area meant that crucial revenues from Christmas advertising campaigns which we financially depend on and had worked so hard for many months to secure were cancelled and a level of reputational damage has now been felt, plus the charities with whom we had fundraising campaigns planned have also lost out. It’s a very difficult and very sad situation, particularly in these already difficult financial times.

 “It wasn’t going to be easy, but the objective was clear. We needed to find a way to bring back Winchester DAB as soon as possible to limit the damage to businesses and charities. These local radio services operate as social enterprises, charities or not-for-profit organisations and provide a valuable service to those they support across our area.”

With support and guidance from Ofcom, new plans were agreed and the required public consultation began. During this time, the Winchester DAB team prepared a new transmission site, just 200m away from the original site in Crabwood Far, in sub-zero temperatures ahead of the launch.

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The consultation process ended on January 30 and Ofcom published the outcome report on the February 7. By lunchtime of the following day, the Winchester DAB service was back on the air, carrying Winchester Radio, Winchester Today, Outreach Radio, Outreach Dance, and Southampton’s Voice FM, Awaaz FM and Fiesta FM.

Nigel Dallard, a trustee of Winchester Radio, said: “We’re very pleased to have Winchester Radio available, once again on DAB digital radio. While we’ve remained available on 94.7FM across the city and the immediate-surrounding villages, the Winchester DAB network allows us to be heard over a wider area that has close affiliations with Winchester.

“The speed with which the new Winchester DAB consortium was established when the previous operator had financial difficulties was a great example of organisations coming together to save a community asset. And the speed with which service was restored from a new transmitter was remarkable."

Hampshire Chronicle: Osman and Alan prepare the new Winchester DAB antennaeOsman and Alan prepare the new Winchester DAB antennae (Image: Osman Sen-Chadun)

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Mr Sen Chadun said: “This has been an unprecedented and extremely demanding process to achieve in such a short timescale. A process that new licensees typically have over 18 months to complete, we’ve managed to achieve in around two and a half months.

“I am very grateful to all those who have helped and supported us to successfully reach this stage. As a local person, I’m over the moon to see the local radio stations back on the air and once again serving the people of Winchester and surrounding areas.”

The consortium is still working to set up a new transmission site for the 13 radio stations in Basingstoke that were also silenced on DAB.