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Bristol’s Community Radio stations are going digital, and bringing many more new digital radio stations to Bristol and South Gloucestershire with them.
2nd June 2021
Three community broadcasters in Bristol and South Gloucestershire have, between them, won two licences to start digital radio services across the area. Ujima Radio, BCFM and Bradley Stoke Radio are collaborating as Bristol Digital Radio and Severnside Digital Radio, and have been awarded new licences by OFCOM to broadcast digitally across the City of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Keynsham. That means those stations, along with SWU.FM and KTCR in Keynsham, will soon be on DAB digital radio.
Being on digital radio means the community stations will be available on the same basis as the larger commercial and BBC stations in the city, removing some of the barriers to audiences discovering their unique output. The community stations will also benefit by selling some of their spare digital radio space to other stations, which will support their funding.
As well as giving the existing community stations new homes on digital radio, the two digital radio organisations will be bringing even more radio stations to Bristol. Amongst the new stations will be Stokes Croft based NOODS Radio, Base Radio in Filwood, and Bristol’s students will be able to pick up Hub Radio from UWE and BURST Radio from the University of Bristol. 
There will be many more stations announced soon and the new services will be on-air before the end of year (subject to approval by OFCOM). Listed in the groups’ plans are radio stations talking to the LGBTQ+ community, the Polish community, Young people, young kids and a station playing country music.
The new licences are part of an initiative by the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), along with OFCOM, to provide community and small local radio stations a route to digital radio through Small Scale Digital Radio licences. Bristol was chosen as one of the original trial locations in 2015, and now it’s one of 25 areas that were in the first round of licensing. OFCOM has published plans to licence over a hundred more areas, and in the future plans are licences for Swindon, Taunton, Devizes and Trowbridge, Warminster, Shaftesbury, Weston and Clevedon, North Somerset, B&NES and Thornbury and Yate.
The project has been led by the management teams of Ujima Radio, BCFM and Bradley Stoke Radio, working with Nick Piggott, who lives in the city and has been a champion for digital radio since launching the UK’s first commercial digital radio stations from studios in The Watershed 20 years ago.
Bristol Digital Radio and Severnside Digital Radio are not-for-profit organisations, and will provide support to community and local broadcasters in the area. People who have an interest in getting local or community stations onto digital radio can email hello@bristoldigitalradio.org or hello@severnsidedigitalradio.org