The situation in Dorset


Dorset newsLocal News on Terrestrial TV is Dorset.    Our news comes from one of three transmitters, depending on where you live, on either BBC Spotlight from Plymouth, which primarily serves Devon and Cornwall, BBC South which covers an enormous area outside Dorset including Hampshire, or Points West from Bristol.    In some parts of West Dorset, viewers can only get Welsh TV!    It is no surprise therefore that Dorset hardly ever had a mention – that is for those who can receive it, of course!   And if you follow sport, it is practicably impossible to find out about sport in the county.  What is worse is that there is no consolodated Dorset county news that is transmitted across the whole county.   Basically, if viewers are interested in Dorset news, well that’s just too bad as far as the BBC has been concerned!   They claim it’s a problem of money – but we all know that the costs to sort out Dorset are not significant when taken as a percentage of the BBC’s budget and the way they have given away/wasted £millions!   It is simply whether they WANT to do it, not if they can afford it!    Our job is to convince them that Dorset is top priority!
Simply put, we need dedicated programmes for Dorset for both Radio and Terrestrial Television, that truly cover and represent all of Dorset.    And, of course, everyone in the county must be able to receive them simultaneusly, irrespective of their locality!   A serious limitation is that lack of a facility to broadcast across Dorset in the event of a major alert/emergency, including weather problems!  It isn’t as though we are on some remote island!    It is very frustrating to hear on TV to “listen to your local radio for details” when we can’t!    We’re in the heart of Southern England!     This situation really is totally unacceptable in this, the twenty first century!

On the positive side, switchover to Digital TV in the UK is now complete.

Ofcom ensured that all local relay transmitters were converted to digital. This was very significant and should mean coverage is considerably improved for most viewers.  However, you should know that local relays only transmit approx. half of the channels available from the main transmitters, and they no longer include ITV3 & ITV4 etc!    We believe this is likely to cause problems within communities, where even neighbours could receive either all or only half of the transmitted programmes, while everyone pays the same licence fee!?   Is this fair?

As indications from the original DorBAG survey were that over 20% of people had problems receiving analogue transmissions satisfactorily, we continue to receive some complaints from individuals that they are unable to receive a good digital signal.    Hence, DorBAG worked with the BBC & Ofcom on this area to see what could be done to rectify the reported analogue (originally) & subsequent digital TV reception problems.   As a result, the BBC & Ofcom agreed to conduct surveys to establish the true situation.    The comprehensive report on analogue TV reception was  published and shows that many problems were down to old or poor aerial/cable installations, use of loft aerials (which halve the signal strength received), or aerials aligned to the wrong transmitter.   The report includes a range of very useful examples and tips which we recommend are studied.

Following another Survey by DorBAG in the summer of 2010, a large number of residents in Weymouth and West Dorset complained about poor reception of Digital TV (Freeview).   Following lobbying by DorBAG, Ofcom agreed to carry out a survey to investigate these complaints in November, 2010.  Their subsequent report was most unhelful.   Indeed, the survey was not carried out with any determination to find the problems,  Complainants still are having problems, and feel very much neglected by the authorities.

See News Archive to follow progress


Local programme content for Dorset:

A major demand from the respondents to the DorBAG survey was that 95% want proper coverage of local Dorset news/events on both radio and on television.    Apart from the fact that most of West Dorset cannot even receive ‘local’ news from BBC Radio Solent, this is the only BBC radio station for the whole county of Dorset.  But it also covers Berkshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – based in Southampton – so guess where the focus inevitably is?

However, the good news is that the BBC Trust and BBC Radio Solent finally agreed in 2012 to upgrade the existing studio in Dorchester and hire sufficient staff to create a weekday breakfast programme for Dorset – albeit for those who can receive the transmission from Bincombe Hill (between Weymouth and Dorchester).    So, for those who can receive it, we have a great Dorset programme from 6:30am to 9:00am each workday.

In addition, BBC Radio Solent added a dedicated Dorset programme, the “Big Dorset Brunch”, each Saturday morning from 8:00am to 11:00am, again broadcast from the upgraded studios in Dorchester.  So we now get a local radio breakfast/morning programme for 6 days per week.   Of course, this does not compare with counties such as Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire etc. which all have their own full-time radio stations!   We have a long way to go!

[See “News Archive – DorBAG was given several plans to re-introduce a full BBC Radio Dorset station, but each one was cancelled.   This despite the BBC acknowledging that Dorset has been “underserved” for years.  However, it is good to see that we have made some progress as outlined above.   It seems the BBC Trust and management now have some sympathy with our situation.  The sad history clearly demonstrates from the 1990s the go/no go/broken promises by the BBC, that is prior to when they launched the new programmes above].

Coverage and Radio Reception Problems:

Regarding coverage, the BBC has stated that they have no plans to do anything to improve national FM radio coverage.    Their focus is now on the development of digital radio (DAB), even though final switchover to DAB will (if it happens in our life time), will be some years later (date not announced but was originally recommended to be 2015 – a totally unrealistic figure!). We believe this will be delayed much further.   So there appears to be no rush to buy DAB.  In fact, there have been many concerns over the future of DAB as  a number of advertisers have been pulling out due to the low numbers of listeners, the result of which is that some commercial broadcasters are also pulling out.   This isn’t surprising as, apart from the present financial climate, there are few DAB transmitters across the country and, for example, few BBC Local radio channels are carried on DAB.

Unsurpringly, we have learned that present plans for the DAB rollout will only try and match existing FM transmitter coverage.    DorBAG will work with the BBC and Ofcom to try and ensure that Dorset, just for once, gets enough transmitters to cover the county!

According to our research, a large number of residents already have problems receiving FM, let alone DAB.    We have raised this issue with the broadcasting authorities and received Ofcom’s response describing the coverage issues.

Note comments about the need for external aerials to optimise your reception. This is important as much of Dorset is very hilly – a major limitation of signal strength.

It seems a good new external aerial for FM and DAB can make a big difference!    But please note that not all channels are yet on DAB in Dorset – the BBC needs access to more multiplexes, and they have to be provided by commercial broadcasters, who aren’t very keen to pay for them these days!   Thus, as already said, there are very few local BBC radio programmes presently on DAB!

As you know, to receive DAB, if and when it is rolled out properly, you will need to buy new radio sets, including Hi-Fi, car radios and all the sets in the home – including bedside alarm radios!   And, to ensure a good signal, we learn that as for FM, many of us, will need to have a new external terrestrial DAB aerial in order to get a decent signal (well for most places – and some might still have problems, even then). This means, if you are buying a DAB set, you should consider making sure it has an external aerial socket and that the seller will take it back if there is no reception in your area!    Fortunately, as already discussed, switchover to DAB is still some way off, but we will no doubt eventually be forced (yet again!) to replace all our sets, or only be able to listen to those radio channels that are available on Freeview, or Freesat (a subscription free satellite service provided by BBC and ITV).

BBC Dorset Web Site     (:

Some good news for surfers – the BBC finally got around to giving Dorset its own web site with news, weather, web cams etc., plus, you can listen to Radio Solent, or watch any of the three TV news channels that feed Dorset over the Internet.    The BBC has added short local news items and local weather on the web site for Dorset.    However, we have emphasised that all this, while a very welcome addition, is no substitute for dedicated news on radio and TV across the whole county.    Most people still watch the TV or listen to the radio for news, (not the internet, although we acknowledge this is the way things are going, but relying on terrestrial TV & radio news will continue to be the case for many years to come).   So on TV, we still want the BBC to provide a dedicated terrestrial TV local news channel for Dorset which is transmitted right across Dorset, rather than simply adding material to BBC South, Points West or Spotlight for the obvious reasons outlined below.  Hence, while the web site is welcome and useful for those with computers, it does not solve our present problems with radio or terrestrial TV.