According to Radio Today, the stations in the MW switch-off trial are BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio Lincolnshire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Nottingham. They have all stopped transmitting services on their MW frequencies and are referring listeners to FM or DAB. The BBC is monitoring listener feedback to see if the service is missed and if there are any problems migrating listeners across to FM or DAB ahead of the planned complete switch-off.
The trial started on Friday, and is seen as controversial, as some radio stations rely on the MW version to broadcast alternative sports coverage. For example, BBC Radio Nottingham has historically used its MW and DAB digital radio service to transmit alternative sports coverage, in a broadcast area that includes Notts Forest, Notts County and Mansfield football clubs and Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. However, the BBC notes that the MW service of most local radio stations "duplicates" FM and DAB coverage and has made alternative arrangements for stations where there has been a FM/MW split service in the past.
In Nottinghamshire, the following alternative arrangements have been made to cater for sports broadcasts, previously on MW:
- Nottingham Forest games will be available on 103.8MHz and 95.1 MHz
- Notts County games will be available on 95.5MHz and on Local DAB
Lincolnshire's inclusion in the trial is not surprising, as the flat terrain allows its transmission on FM from Belmont to reach most parts. There is currently no local DAB multiplex on air in Lincolnshire. Merseyside has also got good coverage on FM and DAB. Kent is likely to provide the biggest challenges, given issues with interference from continental stations and the hilly terrain in parts of the county. However, three FM transmitter sites cover Kent, and DAB provides coverage for at least part of the county.
According to the BBC, the switch-off trial will last until the 24th September.
Only a few local stations such as BBC Radio Derby are exempt from the final switch-off of MW services due to the topography of the area served. BBC Radio Derby, for instance is not clearly audible on FM across the Peak District, despite relays at Stanton Moor and Buxton, and as the future DAB digital radio transmitters for Derbyshire are going to be based at the same sites with coverage similar to FM, there will be similar FM/DAB reception blackspots. In this exception to the rule, Radio Derby on 1116 kHz will remain transmitting from its site near the Toyota factory in Burnaston, with the Asian Network taking over during the evening.