Timeline for BBC Radio Dorset

Summary: 1990 Original BBC plans for Radio Dorset cancelled.

26th April 1993 Dorset FM launched as an opt-out to Radio Devon on 103.8Mhz from Bincombe Hill transmitter – “just under 25 hours“ of Dorset news & events per week.

27th November 1995 BBC Engineering issued press release for plans to add transmitter at Eype for main 4 BBC National Radio stations

30th March 1996 BBC Radio Solent took over Radio Dorset from Devon with substantial promises of improved coverage and local programme content – still on 103.8FM. Claimed to “reach right across Dorset” reaching 85% of population and “, will offer the same amount of local news and information as the previous one”.   But see 2013!   But this was not the case – in fact it was much reduced.

December, 2004 – DorBAG (Dorset Broadcasting Action Group) launched (initially as WEDBAG) due to Oliver Letwin being inundated with complaints.

Summer 2005 DorBAG carried out a survey – received approx. 4,000 responses from 40,000 mailings (10%) – 95% demanded local news on radio and on television!

January 2006 Andy Griffee, Head of English Regions, announced plans to launch Radio Dorset

22nd September 2006 Eve Turner, Head of BBC South, confirmed Dorset as priority of Radio Dorchester with additional transmitter(s) to  achieve full coverage.

 2nd March 2007 Andy Griffee confirmed continued plans for Radio Dorset.

October 2007, Mike Hapgood, BBC Region Head of BBC South in Southampton, announced cancellation of re-introduction of BBC Radio Dorset – just as it was literally about to launch.

January 2008 Andy Griffee, Head of English Regions announced Dorset would have early “BBC Local” team in compensation for loss of Radio Dorset.   This to include Manager for Dorchester.

November 2008 BBC Trust cancelled “BBC Local” which also meant no Manager for Dorset.

July, 2009 Dorset’s Big Breakfast Brunch launch on Radio Solent for Saturday mornings (0800 to 1100) only.

September 2009David Holdsworth, Head of English Regions, wrote to Oliver Letwin stating a package of measures to improve broadcasting in Dorset and was now in a position to investigate an opt-out of Radio Devon.

 October 2009 Jane McCloskey, Head of BBC South West developed a plan to re-introduce BBC Radio Dorset as an opt-out from Radio Devon with additional transmitter power to cover the county.

September 2010 Jane McCloskey moved to another job within the BBC

January 2011 – After new heads of BBC South (Jason Horton) and BBC South West (Leo Devine) were appointed, new plans were presented to opt-out Radio Dorset from Solent with less coverage.

July 2013 – The BBC Trust approved a bid from Jason Horton for funds to create a new Breakfast programme for Dorset.   On 8th July, 2013 the new part-time programme (It is only broadcast from 0630 to 0900 weekdays), was launched, and is still running strongly on 103.8FM, but it only reaches areas in and around Dorchester, Weymouth & Portland!   We must have a full-time, county-wide programme reaching everyone in Dorset!      Dorset is the ONLY county in the south of England without its own full local BBC Radio.  In addition, we also do not have local radio online, nor on Freeview TV as the others do!

 September 2015 – BBC cancelled proposed new, larger studio

 November 2015 – Dorset’s breakfast radio programme now launched on BBC IPlayer.

August 2016 –Despite protests from DorBAG, the BBC cancelled the existing “Big Breakfast Brunch” Saturday morning Dorset radio programme promising that Dorset would get good cover in the Radio Solent Saturday morning programme instead.

September 2016 – The “Breakfast in Dorset” radio programme, followed on by Radio Solent, now added to all DAB transmitters in Dorset.   But they only cover east and central Dorset!   Not the west!

September 2016 – The Dorset Breakfast programme was added to Freeview channel 734.    In this case, it is broadcast on all three main TV transmitters such that it does cover all of Dorset!    But we still do not have cover by Dorset’s BBC local radio.

May 2017DorBAG obtained agreement from Ofcom that there was no legal reason why the BBC could not add a channel to an existing Devon DAB transmitter.   DorBAG then made a formal proposal to the BBC to utilise an existing relay transmitter in Devon that already covers West Dorset by simply adding one channel – Jason Horton accepted that it was technically feasible, but said he could not afford it as the running costs would be in the “ hundreds of thousands of pounds”.   DorBAG requested details of the costs as this seemed totally ridiculous, especially as they already transmit the programme on Freeview channel 734.

Summer 2018 – Ken MacQuarrie – Director of Nations & Regions has now taken over Local Radio for the BBC as well as TV.   In addition, he has replaced David Holdsworth, who was Head of English Regions, with Helen Thomas, and with a new, bigger role/title “Director of BBC England”.  See https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2018/helen-thomas.

In addition, Helen Thomas has appointed Chris Burns as the Head of Local Radio – a new post that Tony Hall wanted to put more emphasis on Local Radio.

Both Helen Thomas and Chris  Burns will be meeting Sir Oliver Letwin and a few representatives from DorBAG on 8th January 2019 in Westminster.   Watch this space!