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article imageCeltica Radio: Welsh online radio station jumps to FM Special

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 16, 2014 in Music
Three years after an Internet-only radio station based in Wales in the UK found itself entering people’s homes via medium wave, it’s now completed its journey to the FM band.
Celtica Radio began life nearly 15 years ago. It’s known internationally as a champion of new and independent musicians. It’s based in Bridgend in South Wales, in the UK, with studio facilities in several other locations.
Celtica Radio continues to make programmes available on its own website; however, as reported by Digital Journal three years ago, in 2011, it began providing programmes for the Mid Wales independent local radio (ILR) station Radio Hafren.
But, till this week, the station was available only on medium wave (or AM). However, Radio Hafren having now switched on its FM transmitters means that, as with most other ILR outlets, it and, consequently, Celtica Radio now broadcast on both platforms.
Since 10:21 a.m. on Monday, August 11, listeners in Welshpool, Newtown and the surrounding areas have been able to receive Radio Hafren’s full service in stereo on 102.1 FM from a new transmitter sited on the outskirts of Newtown.
The official switch-on time of 10:21 was chosen to reflect the station’s 102.1 FM signal.
According to Radio Hafren’s head of news, Andrew John, for the past two weeks the station’s technicians and production staff have been testing the equipment, with test transmission of birdsong and other ambient sound recorded at various locations throughout Wales.
Speaking of those listeners unable to pick up Radio Hafren on FM, John assures that “they will still continue to receive the medium-wave signal.”
Celtica Radio: online  756kHz AM and 102.1 FM
Celtica Radio: online, 756kHz AM and 102.1 FM
Celtica Radio
“Celtica syndicates 14 hours of music and speech programming with a high production value on Radio Hafren,” says Celtica’s managing director Bill Everatt. “We deliberately wanted to broadcast late at night to take advantage of the atmospheric effects that cause AM — or medium wave — signals to reach significantly further than during the day.”
A few notable names have been associated with Celtica over the years, he said, even though most output by far is from unsigned independent artists.
So what will this extension of its reach mean for Celtica?
“From a technical standpoint, there’ll be no change,” Everatt told Digital Journal. “We were privy, quite some time ago to these plans for FM broadcasting. So, and it must have been maybe as long as two years ago that Celtica Radio started increasing our transmission bit rate, and changing our processing in readiness for the addition of being on an FM platform.
Bill Everatt
Bill Everatt
Bill Everatt / Moonbase Central
“It was a lot of trial and error. We contributed to our colleagues at Radio Hafren by being a testbed for these low-key technical trials.”
But from a broadcast point of view?
“Well, that, of course, means that we will also now be available on FM for listeners in the Mid Wales and [English] Borders area,” says Everatt. “However, over the 15 years since we started broadcasting, Celtica Radio has periodically been broadcast on the FM band before. Usually as a short-term sustaining service in parts of the United States, and Northern Europe. But this will be the first time to my knowledge we will have been on FM in the UK, and of course in the long term.”
Everatt explained that the coverage for FM will not be as big as it is for the AM signal. This is due the way that AM signals behave. “And because this particular part of Wales is an extremely bumpy bit of the world, there will be areas which will still only get the AM signal. But anyone who wants to hear the programmes in FM quality stereo can do so online.”
What about increased interest for Celtica as a result of its inclusion in Hafren’s output? Radio Hafren boss Alistair Tyne says, “It’s hard to say with any certainty,
Fred Stacey
Fred Stacey
Celtica Radio
as we don’t get any hour-by-hour listening stats for the AM service. But anecdotal evidence suggests that a small but not insignificant part of our audience appreciates the wider choice of programming our relationship with Celtica brings.”
The first Celtica presenter to be exposed to the FM platform was Fred Stacey, who presents a music show.
“FM is a nicer sound to be heard on,” he says. “And it’s an exciting time for Celtica. It’ll be good to have the FM audience on board to enjoy our original programming.
“I’ve always had faith that we would end up extending our audience in this way. It’s a very proud moment for me to be the first Celtica Radio voice to be officially heard on FM.”
In an interview on Everatt’s programme The Underground Edition on Celtica Radio, he spoke to Radio Hafren’s bosses Alistair Tyne and Tom Pain, which you can access from the link at the top of this article.
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