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TENERIFE — Coast FM has become the first radio network in the Canary Islands to broadcast on DAB digital radio, covering Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
The station is the first English-language service to be available on all seven islands in the popular holiday destination and is also now broadcasting on FM to Benidorm.
Coast FM’s Managing Director, Andy Stewart, set out how the network began. “We launched with Coast FM back in 2009 from a spare bedroom in my house in the south of Tenerife, and it was intended almost as a hobby. I was astonished at the immediate response the station received, and within a few months, the spare room was well and truly outgrown, so business premises were located in Costa Del Silencio, which later moved to a prime location in Las Chafiras. With Coast FM now into its twelfth year of broadcasting, it was clearly the right choice,” he said.
“Soon after moving into our new business premises, coverage was expanded to include west Tenerife, then north Tenerife, also taking in the nearby islands of La Gomera and La Palma. We then found a natural coverage expansion rollout across the remaining islands,” Stewart explained.
In the first two years, the multilingual CHR/Dance format Energy FM was added in the south of Tenerife, while Coast FM Classic Gold, Coast Rock, Soul City FM and CHR format The Superstation are the newest additions to the network.
“I believe one of our big strengths as a group from the get-go was the fact that I am a broadcast engineer,” said Stewart. “It’s something I enjoy and am very passionate about, allowing us to always be ahead with the latest technology and unmatched signal coverage. We are also extremely lucky to have a very dedicated team around us, who go the extra mile to make sure each station is sounding its best.”
The Coast network has two main studios and a network control hub. “Our on-air desk in studio 1 in Tenerife is an Alice Air 2000, in studio 2 in Gran Canaria we have a Sonifex S2 split mixer,” Stewart said.
“All our studios have either Shure SM7B or Electro-Voice RE20 microphones with Yellowtec VIP digital mic processing, plus Sonifex phone hybrids and the ability to monitor any of our FM or DAB transmitters from the desk. We are using a combination of AirPRO for playout and AdSplits written by a good friend of mine, Charlie Davy, for network splits. We also use a number of Linux machines to control network splitting and TX monitoring,” he added.
Omnia processing is used for all the Coast network stations. “We take great pride in our audio quality,” said Stewart. “We even have an Orban Optimod 8300 processing the clean feed we use for outside broadcasts. OBs are normally operated using Opticodec 7600s over IP. We are fortunate in operating our own WISP network in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, allowing us to connect back to base on our own network from the majority of locations.”
Stewart says the pandemic has had little impact on his stations. “We have been very fortunate in that our network has been built around regular studio and outside broadcast switching, so facilitating presenters working from home posed limited technical challenges. The biggest difference has been reducing our outside broadcasts to fit in with the regularly changing restrictions across the islands.”
In 2019, Coast FM became the first radio station to trial DAB digital radio in the Canary Islands from its south Tenerife site.
“Soon after this, we joined forces with Digi-Can, an established service provider in the Canaries, allowing us to rapidly expand digital coverage,” said Stewart. “We are using a combination of in-house built technology, DABcast and equipment from HFprints. The multiplex is generated using the ODR DAB tools with our own custom Linux build. We are successfully running encoders on our own multi-island LAN, and also externally from client stations over the internet.”
Stewart said the Coast network has ambitious plans for the future. “We are actively working to install more local studios to allow opt-outs from individual islands. We will continue to expand our DAB coverage and are already in talks to expand onto mainland Spain.”