As digital radio coverage in south Wales increases with the switching on of new transmitters, Radio Wales Editor Steve Austins blogs about the changes taking place - and the challenges that remain in getting digital radio to everyone in Wales.
The challenge of digital
A few weeks ago I made a speech for a reception of Assembly Members in which I talked about what a privilege it was to run BBC Radio Wales. I’m incredibly proud of the range of content we produce on a daily basis for the people of Wales. However I did also tell them that one of the only frustrations of the job was that more people across Wales couldn’t hear that content in quality.
Quite often I find myself answering listeners’ anger that the fact that reception is poor where they live. Or indeed why, in some parts of Wales, they can't get the station at all when they can pick up BBC stations coming from London. For the most part I've been able to sympathise, but little else.
But thankfully, we are now really turning a corner on distribution.
A clearer picture for digital radio
To start, BBC Radio Wales is available in quality sound on TV - across Wales on Freeview, and across the UK on Sky, Virgin and Freesat. On mobile, you can now hear BBC Radio Wales on a number of apps including the rather brilliant BBC iPlayer Radio.
On DAB, the switching on of the Wrexham Chester digital multiplex in March brought Radio Wales in quality to over 300, 000 people in north east Wales. Transmitters in the north west are due to be switched on in 2014. Meanwhile, in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, it’ll happen much sooner – we expect switch-on in late summer / early autumn this year.
The switch-on of digital transmitters in the Heads of the Valleys on Tuesday 30 July marks another massive leap forward. A quarter of a million people will get BBC Radio Wales on digital radio for the first time thanks to new transmitters in Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Ebbw Vale, Abergavenny - and a switch to the more powerful Wenvoe transmitter for the rest of south east Wales.
All in all, nearly 75% of Wales' population could have access to BBC Radio Wales by this autumn. To put that into context, that figure was 40% at the start of the year.
However, there is still work to do. There are no digital transmitters in mid Wales yet and none of the horizon at the moment. We will need to work with our partners across the radio industry to resolve this as quickly as possible.
But for the majority of the population, there is now a good story to tell about digital radio in Wales. And I hope it will make a real difference to how you enjoy BBC Radio Wales where you live.