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Fears rural areas won't get digital radio signal

Bridgnorth | News | Published:

Rural parts of Shropshire will miss out on plans to upgrade radio networks to digital, it has been revealed.

Masts in the south of the county will not be included in the Government's nationwide project to phase out FM radio and switch over completely to a digital (DAB) radio network by the end of the decade.

It has raised fears that people living in isolated areas may be unable to tune in.

Councillor Charlotte Barnes, Shropshire councillor for Bishop's Castle, said the area was being "ignored" and has pledged to write to rural affairs minister Dan Rogerson to raise the issue.

She said: "We are having a really raw deal in rural Shropshire at the moment – mobile phone signals are poor, broadband is indifferent and now the Government's proposals will leave many residents without radio reception.

"In their 'Framework agreement on local DAB expansion' published the other day, the Government makes no provision for the upgrade of masts covering a huge swathe of the county stretching from Bishop's Castle and Ludlow in the west over to Bridgnorth in the east.

"If we don't get some investment before the change over, many will be left with a poor or non existent signal by the switch over. Digital (DAB) signal gives better reception but performs poorer than the current analogue systems in upland areas.

"Signals there are not good at present but may disappear altogether if FM is shut down. I know there are no plans to upgrade the FM repeaters in Clee/Ludlow and Clun.

"In the first instance I will be writing to Dan Rogerson MP, the rural affairs minister, on this issue.

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"However, we might have to start campaigning in earnest shortly," she said.

The planned roll-out is hoped to boost DAB digital coverage from the current 72 percent of homes to around 90 percent of homes by September 2016.

Additional local DAB transmitters are expected to be launched within 12 months of any announced switchover date, an agreement between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and various broadcasting companies has said.

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