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BBC, Ofcom & Digital UK meet with DorBAG Committee Friday 18th July
Sat 19 Jul 2008

Senior managers from the BBC, Ofcom and Digital UK attended a meeting with DorBAG in Dorchester on 18th July, 2008.   A packed and lively meeting emphasised very clearly the dissatisfaction felt in Dorset of the poor level of services received from the BBC.   However, it was positive and a number of action points came out of it:

  • BBC hopes to recruit a Managing Editor to be based in Dorchester in the near future - they are interviewing now.   This person, who will report directly to Mike Hapgood - Head of BBC South, will be in charge of all BBC staff in Dorset.    He/she will also have a dotted reporting line to John Lilley, Head of BBC South West. to ensure good coordination between studios.  
  • Mike Hapgood has also started to look for new studios in Dorchester.   The existing ones are outdated and inadequate for today's needs.
  • DorBAG continues to press for:
    • FM local radio coverage - the BBC are reconsidering how they might be able to achieve this.
    • Dorset to be treated as one entity for local news on radio and on TV.   We should all be able to see the same local news as it is broadcast - right across the county and, of course, it should all be about Dorset news.
    • Everyone is encouraged to support the new concept "BBC Local" which is presently out for public consultation by the BBC Trust and Ofcom.   This is important to Dorset as, if it is approved, Dorset will get five additional staff for this new local news service!   While the team is specifically to gather local news for the Dorset Website, the materal, be it audio or video etc., would also be available for radio and/or television news.    So if you haven't already, please go to   http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/consult/open_consultations/local_video_pvt.html  and complete the questionnaire supporting the proposal - with special emphasis for Dorset!   Full details of what "BBC Local" is all about are on the same web site.

Other news from the meeting:

  • FreeSat is now live but still does not have Channel 5.   If you want more than one TV from one FreeSat dish, you need to buy a special dish that will feed up to four televisions.   Ask your aerial installer about it.
  • BBC Devon is trialling a new Digital Medium Wave Radio system (yes, you would need yet another new radio set to receive it!).   However, as Medium Wave signals are lower frequency than FM, they carry further and will 'drop' into valleys better, giving wider reception than FM.   It will be interesting to hear how the trial goes.
  • Although some countries in Europe have moved over to DAB+, an improved system to ours, as the UK has the highest take up of DAB, Ofcom says they think the country has 'no appetite' to change yet again (it would mean another new DAB+ radio set!).
  • Digital TV restrictions: Confirmed the Government didn't want to impose conditions on commercial operators which is why local TV relays will only transmit about 20 channels as against 40 or more on main transmitters. Commercial broadcasters decided to only cover 90% of the population! However, at its meeting on the morning of 18 Jul, Digital UK reported that 50% of the population in the south west television region was served by relays. So people in same street, but on different transmitters, could receive different services (for same licence fee!) – they could even be neighbours!
  • Problems with Stockland Hill and Rowridge transmitters clashing on same frequencies in some cases – frequency plan decided in Geneva in 2006 – best deal they could get for UK. However, the two transmitters would not need to share if two frequencies were released from the spectrum dividend. Ofcom will be "managing" the conflicting transmissions to minimize interference. Stockland Hill power will go up on switchover, while Rowridge will be unchanged until 2012; after which it will increase from 20 kW to 50 kW, with Stockland Hill remaining on 25 kW.

  • Digital UK advised that:
    • Stockland Hill will switch to digital only next year between 6th and 20th of May.  It will be a full digital service.   However, local relays will only transmit some 20 channels due to commercial companies not wanting to pay to cover transmissions to low population areas.   So try and be on a main transmitter or consider FreeSat.
    • Mendip will switch April to June 2010.

 


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