FM Outside London

Discuss UK-based Radio outside the South East of England
e.g. Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds & Manchester
'Legal' radio topics often go here too.
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FM Outside London

Post by Matt » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:15 pm

Until recently, I've been a staunch "FM will never die" advocate. The internet is full of stations that struggle to stand out and being on "proper radio" is the only way to convince the listeners you're a "proper" station and to gain a loyal audience. Now, I'm not so sure.

Around where I live, there's one station with a regular FM operation, but that's it. And it's far from a cutting edge station. 15 years ago, there were quite a number of them and stations used to just pop up for short periods - you were often rewarded for tuning around. Where I grew up in West Yorkshire, the band was literally rammed at times. The town I grew up in had 4 or 5 stations at a time and the cities had plenty going on as well.

But who tunes around these days? I occasionally might in the car, especially when I'm travelling, but I'm not a normal listener and it's only occasionally. And there's very little to be found. Even me, with a bit of a passion for these things, just ask the smart speaker to play whatever station I fancy at home and in the car, it's usually the TuneIn app. A station isn't going to be stumbled upon by listeners. And who uses FM at home any more anyway?

One station, run by some pirate veterans in Yorkshire, has gone online only and has been this way for a few years now. It's obviously not worth the hassle that putting a station on FM brings. Those few who are still on FM never advertise the frequency anywhere - on their website or on air - so, again, they're unlikely to be found or indeed listened to on FM. Even the legals are pushing the listeners this way with things like "Say Play Greatest Hits Radio to your smartspeaker" in their jingles.

So, FM is on its way out, right? Outside of London, is it just a handful of veterans who persist? The kids with the cutting edge tunes aren't going to bother putting a station on when none of their mates have got the kit to listen to it anyway! Those who remain are on a nostalgia trip, right?

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by FMEnjoyer » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:40 pm

Enthusiasts and dare I say it.. men of a certain age. If you have a real interest in radio because you have had fun times with it
in the past you have a curiosity about it still, whatever its status. That status seems to be lowering I would say for 2019.
I like to tune around, but mostly I tend to stumble on either low power community stations that are playing unusual music and
obscurities which I find quite interesting. I do a bit of SW listening of a weekend around the 6,200kHz are for a bit of real
old school sounds and presenter style.

I suspect many young people don't own a radio, just a phone. I have 3 radios all round the place, Tecsuns with the obligatory longer antennas made from wire added etc. To pull in the tricky signals. Radio makes you feel connected in a way that social media fails. Radio is in your control. That's the way I see it. I think you either get it or you don't, radio is a way of making you feel part of something and shared music experience is a cool thing. But yes there is less on FM that is for sure. Everyone has their limits to putting up with all the hassle I guess FM brings in 2019 and so it is dying out rather. It does feel like a nostalgia activity actually, I remember the good old days, and others remember those before then and those before then etc.

I still listen quite a bit at weekend or on my own, radio time is chill time for me. Being on FB or some other social media platform is not chill, it's mind games most the time.

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Albert H » Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:01 am

Friends of mine ran a pretty successful FM pirate in London in the 80s. Their probable audience was in the low tens of thousands at best.

These days they're on the interweb only at https.www.raidersfm.com and get a huge global audience (according to their server loading figures) during their more popular shows. Some of their programmes are excellent, and they're not constrained by genre or playlisting.

Other 70s, 80s, and 90s stations have also made this move: www.cruisinradio.net is a good example. The people running it were on stations like RFL and Thameside, and it's a "Gold" format that's actually worth listening to - it doesn't suffer from the "Sony CD Jukebox" problem like Crapital Gold (the same 180 tracks over and over again) - and doesn't have to carry much in the way of advertising to pay for itself.

Band II is so full of local stations and noise that you have to run significant amounts of power to be heard. When I was doing it, a 50 - 100 Watt station would cover much of London from a high site - these days, you need ten times that power level just be heard beyond your own neighbourhood!
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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Matt » Tue Feb 19, 2019 7:40 pm

I like a bit of a tune around the shortwave bands myself, but that's something of a niche with enthusiasts broadcasting to enthusiasts.

I think that pirate radio was born out of necessity - the legal stations simply weren't catering for huge swathes of listeners. To listen to dance or reggae in 80s and 90s Yorkshire (and other parts of the country) you had to tune into the pirates. These stations could therefore build quite an audience. The demand was there and the stations supplied what the audience clearly wanted. But back then, a transmitter was the only way to get to this audience and it had to be done on a local level.

If you put a station on now, you're not just in competition with the other local pirates, you're in competition with every other station on the web, unless you can get a particularly strong local angle. If a group of enthusiasts put a house station on FM, they'll need a web stream as well anyway to make sure their listeners can receive them in the way they're used to consuming radio and, given that, they better be at least as good as the house station the listeners currently listen to. So what's the point in the hassle of a transmitter?

The necessity is simply no longer there, so why would anyone be arsed?!

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Albert H » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:25 pm

Matt - you're right. We got to this point some time ago.

Most of the London pirates are just inept amateurs with crap equipment (mostly built by clueless copiers) whocan't make competent radio programmes and don't know how to avoid interference. They're just a nuisance.

In other countries, there are competent pirates who still fulfil a need - whether for specialist music or for unbiased news. I'm happy to help these guys, but the UK variety really should just give up - certainly in the major cities.
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Re: FM Outside London

Post by OldskoolPirate » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:03 pm

Went to London the other day, there must have been about 7-8 stations on, all on low power apart from vision 88.4. I should say it was mostly the usual foreign stations that always manage to stay on, whatever happens. They’re obviously keeping certain individuals at bay. It’s totally dead in the ground now I think. it’s too hard and too expensive to keep rigs on and not worth the risk. Plus everyone from those days have all grown up and don’t care about radio anymore. There no where to put rigs where some engineer ain’t gonna go near for a good length of time. Social media means every cunt knows where your site is, google maps gets them there ASAP.... !!! OH NO, RIGS GONE OFF!!! The list goes on. There’s No fun in it anymore, you can no longer hide.

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Matt » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:20 pm

I was in central London on a Thursday morning in November and picked up the stations on FM that I listen to most on tunein - a couple of reggae and a couple of dance stations. The band actually seemed fairly lively given that it was before 9am on a weekday. Still, I suppose everything's relative and maybe it's a lot quieter than it used to be. I'm rarely in London so I wouldn't really know.

Outside London really does seem dead now though. Some of the big cities have got literally nothing, or next to nothing, despite having the sort of music scenes that would historically tempt a few to get transmitters up, especially in those areas where rigs rarely get stolen.

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Albert H » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:36 am

I've just provided four rigs (400W jobs, conservatively rated) with link receivers, a mid-point and a studio link rig with RDS, stereo coder and limiter built-in to some people in a northern English city. They also bought all the relevant aerials and cabling, and it's a complete "turnkey" set-up. It's just install, and fire up. They assure me that they have secure, very high sites with good views over their projected coverage area. The link gear was tested over a very noisy dog-leg 12km path, and got clean stereo at the distant end. The hardest part will be pointing the link aerials in the right direction!

There's still some activity!
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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Matt » Fri Feb 22, 2019 7:59 pm

Exciting stuff. I'd love to be proven wrong. I'll keep tuning around when visiting various northern cities and I may well find one of your transmitters on the band!

I do wonder if the fact that FM is less popular feeds itself to some extent - the less there are, the less there are, if you see what I mean. If a station was to make something of itself, this could bring others to try to compete. Maybe, Maybe not.

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by peterogerspirate » Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:02 pm

The internet is now the radio why risk heavy fines putting up a rig to broadcast to a 10-20 mile radius
Not many people have fm radios now except in cars
Kids definatley dont own radios
internet and phone is now how music is consumed
A rig on a towerblock in east london will not broadcast to someone in lets say Sheffield

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Albert H » Sat Feb 23, 2019 1:41 am

Pete - you're right in part. A surprising number of kids still have FM receivers, and there's all the radios in cars and commercial vehicles. Older vehicles won't have DAB receivers (and some cheaper modern vehicles still don't have DAB). Most kids listen on their phones - often connected to a Bluetooth speaker - and a few internet stations have audiences that legal, commercial FM stations really covet.

FM is dying rapidly. A friend of mine played a 5-hour overnight programme backwards on a Midlands commercial FM station (easy to do if you use Audacity) and they got exactly zero complaints! A few years ago, there were loads of complaint calls about a break in transmission of just under a minute....

There's still AM and FM stations in other parts of the world that are doing well, but in the "First World", where there's easy, widespread 'net connection, Internet "broadcasting" is winning out. It's interesting that all the BBC stations (including their Locals) and all the ILR and national commercial stations have web streams. BBC3 TV station went 'net-only (in a cost-cutting exercise) a few years ago, and there are rumours of more stations - both TV and Radio - moving to web-only.

If you want to run a web streaming station, the software's easily available, and you can get "unlimited connections" at reasonable bandwidth for $30 - 40 per month.

I've recently set up a couple of web-only stations, using Rivendell as the studio automation package (free, Open Source), using Darkice as the streaming source tool, and running on a couple of cheap, second-hand desktop computers with extra memory and big HDDs in each case. The longest part of the job was teaching the station operators how to schedule programmes and content with Rivendell, and helping them to load up their music libraries. This is undoubtedly the future.

However, the fun of getting (and keeping) a free-radiating station on the air is hard to beat!
"Why is my rig humming?"
"Because it doesn't know the words!"
;)

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by peterogerspirate » Sat Feb 23, 2019 9:14 am

All that is really missing from internet radio is the radio feel

Most apps are clumbersome and slow and dont quite do what a radio can do if that makes sense

Where is the ability to just scroll and tune in to random stations ?

Where is the ability to lets say listen to stations in Birmingham and then scroll them

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by radionortheast » Sat Feb 23, 2019 10:08 am

peterogerspirate wrote:
Sat Feb 23, 2019 9:14 am
Where is the ability to lets say listen to stations in Birmingham and then scroll them
tunein had that feature, think many of stations are now defunct

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by drumandbasshead010 » Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:38 pm

So, from (most likely) the only kid on this forum...
I'm in Ireland but I'd imagine the situation is pretty similar in the UK. Most kids listen to Spotify in the house and that, but most of what they listen to seems to be dictated by what they here on the radio in the car, so the influences haven't really changed - it's just that music streaming services are becoming more prevalent. There's a few more explorers since the advent of streaming services, and that's probably why techno is getting big in the clubs here (there were few young people into underground music in Ireland until very recently, it's not like the UK!) But essentially not much has changed, and the traditional radio still dictates what most (80% say?) kids listen to.

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by peterogerspirate » Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:41 pm

drumandbasshead010 wrote:
Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:38 pm
So, from (most likely) the only kid on this forum...
I'm in Ireland but I'd imagine the situation is pretty similar in the UK. Most kids listen to Spotify in the house and that, but most of what they listen to seems to be dictated by what they here on the radio in the car, so the influences haven't really changed - it's just that music streaming services are becoming more prevalent. There's a few more explorers since the advent of streaming services, and that's probably why techno is getting big in the clubs here in Ireland (there were few young people into underground music in Ireland until very recently, it's not like the UK!) Essentially not much has changed, and the traditional radio still dictates what most (80% say?) kids listen to.
deezer now have a radio app as well https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... ign=mkg-cs

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by FMEnjoyer » Sat Mar 02, 2019 9:01 am

Problem with legal FM and internet, is it is simply not exciting and actually the current pirates can be included in that. It is boring, rigid and offers nothing over a playlist you can make in iTunes etc. If you are an anorak it just won't do. If you are just a cash cow for advertisers and like run of the mill music maybe it still works, just.

Anything and everything gets boring in the end, when there are no longer any surprises what is the point ?

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by radionortheast » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:26 am

surely theres nothing stopping anyone getting alittle transmitter, as long as they don't live in a city, firing it up for afew hours, you can put whatever music you like on it, you easyly adapt an fm receive aerial for 1-3 watts operation, outside it should get it heard a mile away. ;) I feel alot of people here have accepted defeat

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by peterogerspirate » Sat Mar 09, 2019 2:40 pm

radionortheast wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:26 am
surely theres nothing stopping anyone getting alittle transmitter, as long as they don't live in a city, firing it up for afew hours, you can put whatever music you like on it, you easyly adapt an fm receive aerial for 1-3 watts operation, outside it should get it heard a mile away. ;) I feel alot of people here have accepted defeat
More people would listen to a online stream than a fm frequency

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Matt » Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:44 pm

That's the thing. I remember some friends of mine going on FM with a fairly dodgy signal (direct, antenna on some ladders on the landing poking up into the loft) in 1992 and, within a few days, the calls starting to come in from people who had discovered the station.

They were kind of desperate to come on. The temptation of the gear just sitting there was too much. It was set up properly within a couple of weeks and that's when it took off - getting into a taxi that had it on or hearing it in a shop was pretty cool.

That just won't happen now. People don't just tune around. People don't just stumble upon a station. People are less in the habit of using their FM radio in the same way that they don't go to their CD collection any more. It's not worth the risk for such little reward IMO.

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Re: FM Outside London

Post by Albert H » Sat Mar 09, 2019 8:43 pm

radionortheast wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:26 am
I feel alot of people here have accepted defeat
They have. When you have the brain-dead idiots stealing rigs off blocks, the BBC still spreading their national outlets across half the band, and OFCOM licencing every little remaining hole in the Band, FM is turning into the proverbial dead duck!

You're right - it's easy to fire up a couple of Watts into an aerial on your rooftop and play radio to a half dozen of your mates in the neighbourhood, but that's not real radio.

Radio is being rapidly destroyed by boring corporate stations (Global and Bauer stations are largely a waste of bandwidth) and by a complacent BBC peopled by politically correct lefty clowns with nothing coherent to say. Radio has largely become something to have on in the background while you're doing the hoovering!

Depressing, isn't it?
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