back to article New taskforce to discuss why more people aren't turning to digital

Culture Secretary James Purnell has launched the Digital Radio Working Group to work out why more people don't want digital radio, and how to change their opinions. The group will be comprised of representatives from Ofcom, the BBC and commercial radio stations, as well as the obligatory "consumer representatives", and will be …

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People aren't turning to it - Because it's crap.

Almost all the DAB stations broadcast with such horrible levels of bandwidth-restriction, compression and encoding-artefacts that listening to them is an ordeal.

Hell, some of the streams are only in Mono!

I knew that Retro was the new Cool, but your typical DAB station sounds like an old battered medium-wave trannie with a run-down battery.

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No New Benefits

Unlike TV, most people who listen to the radio are loyal to one or two stations. They get up to Wogan and listen to The Archers. Or they stick with the music station that plays what they want.

So ultimately, there's no benefit to more channels. People don't hop around and they like what they've got. So why should they buy digital?

For the other people, who might be more techy or be avid radio listeners, the sound quality on DAB is crap. Only the big stations are passible. Chill, Gaydar and The Core all appear to be broadcast at 96kbps Mono MP2 (yes - mpTWO).

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What about satellite and cable ?

Maybe people don't bother with DAB because Satellite and cable carry digital radio, as well as stations broadcasting over the internet (I've listening to Radio 6 in Real Player at the moment).

I reckon that the biggest barrier to widespread adoption of DAB is the complete lack of DAB installed by default by car manufacturers (as well the cost and inconvenience of upgrading one's car radio). They can do Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, MP3 paying CD players and USB ports, but they can't do DAB. Twats !

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What about the quality?

They might notice that the quality of digital radio is lower than decent FM analogue radio, as too many stations have been squeezed into the availible bandwidth.

I personally think it is criminal that the government is going to sell off the analogue radio bands to the highest bidder- I asume this will render all analogue radios useless which is such a waste- personally I quite like having an old school valve radio in my front room which sounds nice....

Also if they wern't so interested in selling off the frequencies they could be allocated for comunity/local/interesting use! I would love to be able to listen to a good radio station which wasn't just motivated by comercialism in my car/at work... These frequencies could be freeed up for public use- circumventiung the facist maner in which they are currently assigned (how many local radio stations are there with more than a week license which arn't just comercial?).

My two pennith worth.

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Flame

Why so unpopular?

Have a look at the price! My perfectly serviceable 10 year old clock radio picks up Radio 4 no problem. Why would I want to spend £90+ to replace it? And even if it breaks, I can buy a decent FM replacement for under £20.

And why do they all use tiny, backlit LCD screens FFS!!! If I wake up in the middle of the night, how am I supposed to see the time? Get out of bed to view the display? I want a big red LED display that I can make out from across the bedroom with half closed, bleary eyes!

</rant>

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Invest in the manufacturers, not sell to the end users

The problem is people don't know or really care why they need digital radio in their lives. Their cars don't have it so why should their alarm clock or kitchen radio have it?

Instead of pushing it down consumer's throats with marketing or scare tactics, the government should invest in the manufacturers of the devices to get them to wind down the production of analogue in favour of cheaper digital devices.

Once people start buying them it will soon become the norm to just tune into a DAB broadcast.

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Just wondering ...

... how many people actually use more than one or two stations? My listening is confined to three - the ones I have programmed into the car. At home it's mainly one - when the radio is on, which is fairly seldom.

So why the play on multiple channels? Is it really going to attract more people? Is there really an advantage in shelling out more money for the same thing?

And are there digital music centres? is there a DAB boom box? How many cars are DAB equipped from new? Why are the DAB radios around either plain 1950's style or so funky that they'd be out of place in 99% of the places they could be used?

And why is the display so bloomin' small that the those who rely on radio, blind and partially sighted people, have difficulty using them?

And in case you're wondering, no, I haven;t bought one yet.

There must be a better way.

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Unhappy

I can tell them why...

...It's because digital radio sucks!

As a comparison, on the bus to work with an FM radio, I can get the radio stations I want all the way to the office with minimal interference and broadly acceptable quality.

With a digital radio on the same route, I'm lucky if I get a signal at all for more than a quarter of the journey, and for the parts of the journey where I do get anything other than silence, the received audio is so choppy and broken as to be useless.

If "the powers" want us to use digital radio, they need to get their acts into gear and ensure that reception will give as good, or better, a listening experience than FM - something it falls very very short of at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

Consumer choice?

So government carping on about consumer choice ignores consumers when we dont make choice it wants, nice one!

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What's a radio?

Do you mean wireless routers and 3G devices? Surely they're all digital already, aren't they?

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Nothing to do with DAB being shite, then.

When the quality matches FM then people might start buying.

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Taskforce?

I can tell you why right now. DAB radios cost 10x the price of normal radios, radio listener numbers are dropping and most of the listeners left are happy with the quality and availability of channels on FM. I'd also imagine the combination of large capacity MP3 players, podcasts, radio on TV and radio across the internet are not helping.

How can DAB channels survive? Stream your channels over the internet and stop relying on a 20th century band aid fix for 19th century technology perhaps?

Job done. Where can I get my cheque?

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The old favourites are on analogue anyway

Why would I want to switch to digital radio to listen to the exact same thing?

I typically listen to 2-3 stations at most and they're all on analogue radio. I might get some extra stations with digital radio, but the benefits aren't as obvious (like a 24 hour news channel).

There's also the issue of DAB and DAB+, which most regular users probably won't realise. So we've got the prospect of all existing DAB radios being obsolete to upgrade to the newer standard. Compare this to say Freeview and an HD Freeview coming along in a few years time, the difference between the two is obvious - the HD viewers will get a higher quality picture. With DAB+ people won't see much benefit apart from slightly higher quality, the main benefit will be the government who can reclaim old frequencies yet again.

TV's can be upgraded to digital with a simple set top box, a radio needs to be replaced. Why would anyone want to remove a perfectly working radio?

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Gates Horns

Because £60 is a lot for a 'radio'.

We're used to getting radio's for next to nothing. A little FM tuner can be had for £1.

Paying £40 for a device which recieves radio only just seems a bit expensive. Sure it gets loads of stations in pretty good qulaity but I bet most people only tune into a couple of stations and they get them fine through FM.

I've an FM radio in my car

I've and FM radio on the stereo at home

I've an FM radio built into my MP3 player

How much would it cost to replace all of these to get DAB everywhere?

Too much.

Why are they so expensive when a freeview box can be had for £15 now?

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20%? Who's complaining?

"With only 20 per cent of UK households being DAB-enabled (Digital Audio Broadcasting)"

American broadcasters would cream their jeans if they could attain half that level of adoption for IBOC aka "HD Radio," the hobbled North American answer to DAB. I'd suggest that this a pretty reasonable level that will grow steadily as people replace radios and stereo gear.

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Stop

Errrrr.....

...it couldn't be anything to do with the high price of the hardware and the fact that most folks are simply at technology overload. They don't understand it and therefore can't make use of it. My others halfs nan has a middle name of "I Don't Understand", placing her amongst the needy masses who simply can't cope with all this technology however great it may seem. She can just about manage changing TV channels and turning the volume up and down, but don't go there with Electronic Program Guides, so god help us with pausing live radio...

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Anonymous Coward

Because.....

The sound quality is crap. Really crap.

And it will take about eleventy years before car manufacturers fit them as standard which, based on my review panel of me, is where most people listen to the radio.

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They really don't have a clue, do they

AM/FM radio = 50p

DAB radio = £50

Go figure...

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How many people are buying new radios at all?

It may simply be that people aren't buying new radios and see no need for a new one while the old one still works.

Also may be due to the ipod generation who aren't listening to broadcast radio as much anymore.

Perhaps they need to do automated request radio - text a song title (& band if ambiguous) to a number and have it played. Might work as there doesn't seem to be any shortage of people willing to inflict their music sense on the random public!

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Rob

Patently obvious

There isn't going to be a mass switchover to DAB until the big BBC stations go digital only, which will probably be the *last* thing to happen, not the first. Until then why would you spend more money on a DAB radio that gets you a load of extra stations but you won't listen to any of them because A) they're crap B) they're filled with adverts and C) you only really listen to radio1 anyway. There isn't any good reasons to do it full stop.

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Whats wrong with digital radio

... is that at present there isn't a reasonably priced tuner to match my Quad stereo system.

In any case, why should I bother with digital when I'm getting excellent FM signals off my local cable system? Before I'd consider making the change I have some non-negotiable requirements that must be met:

- the audio quality must at least match CD (DAB doesn't)

- I want to use the same set anywhere that digital is broadcast (this means DRM, not DAB)

- power consumption, hence battery life, must be no worse than a decent all-band analogue set

When something like a receiver based on the Texas Instruments chipset (all wave: LW, MW, SW and FM, all-format: AM, SSB, FM, DAB and DRM) that was supposed to be available last Christmas appears I might be interested. Before then, forget it! I am not about to buy a receiver that I can only use in the UK.

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becouse

becouse there is fuck all on.

More channels/stations has simply ment more shite, less content and more ads.

The same is true for both radio and television, more "choices" has simply lead to more junk, as to choice, 200 channels with the same shite is no different to 4 channels with the same shite it's still all shite. Shite and adverts.

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Unhappy

DAB is a program quality desert

While BBC7 is possibly the BBCs most important contribution to British culture, the rest of the DAB stations are uniformly terrible. Station after station of bad music, bad presenters and bad adverts.

So, if there is no compelling reason for most people to buy a new digital radio when their existing radio works fine, why expect people to do different?

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DAB problems

Main problem for people like me outside of the main metropolitan areas is that the signal's too weak. The first (small) DAB radio I tried at home could pick up literally nothing. A second more costly and mains-powered model works OK provided it's in a window on the right side of the house, but otherwise gives useless reception so pretty inconvenient in general. Do I live in the back of beyond? Not really - 15 miles from Cambridge.

Another problem is the battery appetite if the radio is not mains powered. People just aren't used to needing a new set of chunky batteries every few hours to listen to a radio. If I ran Roberts etc I'd make a mains-powered DAB base unit that could sit in a window and rebroadcast at least one channel at a time eg via Bluetooth to a cheap & compact audio-only (ie no DAB tuner) repeater unit that would have a long battery life. That's the only way I can see to get around the weak signal in many parts of the country which presumably won't improve materially for years to come.

There are other parts of the DAB experience that are either poor or unfamiliar. There's no instant-on for example - the radio takes several seconds, subjectively a long time, to scan the channels after switch-on or when changing channels. And the fact the very few cars - probably where people listen to the radio more than anywhere else - have DAB means that most people aren't familiar with how DAB channels work.

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Bad Reception

The reception on DAB in many areas is non-existant, I have family in Norfolk and Yorkshire and neither can receive DAB at all (these are areas covered by FM and all the mobile phone operators), if the government, OFCOM etc are serious about DAB then perhaps they should ensure that it covers the whole country.

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Quality, forward compatibility, power consumption...

Just a few reasons for not buying a DAB radio include:

- The quality being lower than FM at the bit-rates currently used. (For optimum audio quality, use a Freeview receiver.)

- The possibility that all existing DAB radios will stop working if/when the encoding scheme is changed from MP2 to AAC. (I'm not aware of any being re-progammable.)

- The fact that DAB radios use vastly more power than FM ones. (Just look at the numbers on the wind-up FM/DAB one - it's something like 40 mins per wind on FM and 3 mins on DAB.)

Pause and rewind might be useful, but the feature is not currently present on the vast majority of DAB radios on the market.

I have only found one DAB-only station that I might be interested in, BBC 7.

So it's not hard to see why it's not appealing....

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Could it be because...

DAB is shit?

It's a 10 year old technology that requires a lot of transmitter power to give decent coverage, so stations cost a fortune to run, compared to DVB-H etc. It also requires a lot of receiver power to decode, so no running one in the bathroom on a couple of AA batteries for months on end. Until recently, a retro-naff looking set cost over £100. And is it just me, or do they all look naff?

MPEG 1 audio is shit?

With the drive to cram more and more stations into the available bandwidth, the only thing this country is leading the world on is destroying sound quality. Many stations that currently broadcast in glorious stereo on FM are mono on DAB. If you dislike 128k MP3s (and who in their right mind doesn't), 64k MP2 isn't going to be a joy to listen to! AAC+ will sort out that problem, but then everyone will have to junk their current receivers.

At least the marketing has been forced to backtrack onthe bullshit about digital "quality" sound, when that quality is more like submerged sandpaper being scraped over a blackboard.

This government is shit?

They seem to have an obsession with social engineering in every facet of people's lives via our wallets. I'm waiting for Darling/Gordo to come up with an Analogue Tax...

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Just how many radios do you have?

If the digital switch for radio is handled as badly as the digital switch for TV, we'll all have to buy new radios.

Without including those provided by Sky or Freeview I have 5,

Car Radio

Lounge Radio

Study Radio

Kitchen Radio

Clock Radio

I'm sure some people have many more, for example MP3 players, mobile phones etc. No doubt the Government would like us all to replace our fully functional analogue radios with digital ones. Allowing us to give the Government another wedge of VAT.

Can we have a picture of Parliament in flames?

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DAB Audio Quality

From what I've read in the audiophile magazines (I live in Dublin, but am following DAB news in the UK) the quality of some DAB broadcasts are suffering from the broadcaster using low bit-rates. Has anyone experienced this?

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Bleeding obvious

There's a simple explanation - good old analogue FM sounds far better.

That the BBC apparently failed to understand about bandwidth simply underlines the sad fact that it's now run by bean counters, whose natural reaction to any technical requirement is to outsource it. As with the government, of course, they know so little that they then can't evaluate the quality of the response, so it just goes to the lowest bidder, such as Crapita...

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It's obvious really

When DAB offers Joe Soap something he wants that's available only via DAB then he might consider it. Things like improved quality. Oh, hang on a minute, the BBC had to retract its claim that DAB provided 'CD quality' because it demonstrably doesn't. How about better programming, instead of yet more indistinguishable "Yo, get down" stations with the same playlists being spewed out by indentical motormouths. If it worked in cars or outside cities it might just help as well.

It's an answer looking for a problem.

Now where's the "It's not rocket science" icon?

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Car Radios

I only really listen to radio in my car and I am not about to buy a DAB car stereo to be able to listen to the stations that are digital only, because lets face it they are crap.

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Alert

How about a better signal?

I wanted a DAB radio in my bedroom, however, I couldn't receive anything.

Plus, many people are happy with the current amount of stations in their area like my grandmother. Also with DAB+ in the pipeline, people are just waiting until the analogue signal is turned off.

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Playlist

'enjoy the delights of Planet Rock's 12-track playlist' - you must be getting it confused with Smash Hits or Virgin. As their jingle goes 'If you don't like it, frown at the radio'.

More take-up of DAB will require better reception coverage

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DAB interference

FM works.

DAB picks up interference from my laptop.

Just a single datapoint, but I'd rather stick with FM.

Andrew

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Anonymous Coward

Digital quality

Perhaps many haven't wanted to downgrade the quality of their listening pleasure? DAB for the most part sucks when it comes to sound quality in the UK.

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Stop

Ignoring the content...

Kids used to learn about basic electronics by being able to build their own simple tuners (i.e. cats' whiskers radios) - by forcing the change to a digital format the government will be closing off yet another simple introduction to the sciences we've fallen so far behind in teaching.

FWIW I don't have a digital radio, and see no reason why I should have to have to pay excessive amounts to replace perfectly good equipment.

I suspect the enforced change to digital TV will cause an enormous amount of carbon "waste" emissions - both in the early disposal of existing equipment and the manufacture of new equipment (set top boxes etc.which will no doubt be "updated" every few years requiring new purchases to be made).

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Alert

It's cars and Freeview stupid!

Given a huge proportion of people listen to radio in cars, first stop must be to make dab standard in cars and cheap to upgrade for the majority stuck with old bangers.

Then in the home, who needs DAB? (except maybe in the bedroom) Loads of digital channels are on Freeview, Sky or Virgin without an additional receiver. Tell Planet Rock to stop whinging and get onto Freeview etc.

Finally, pursuade Apple and other MP3 makers with bult in radios to go with DAB rather than FM.

Easy. Make me Prime Minister - or at least head of Ofcom.

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This is an easy one...

Analogue radio set = about £5 at the bottom of the range.

Digital radio set = £50.

I don't believe Freeview really took off until you could get a set-top box for about £20 so maybe they should take a leaf out of that book.

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Anonymous Coward

"to work out why more people don't want digital radio"

...maybe more people would care if they could get a signal in their area.

I believe that DAB coverage has a long way to go before it will be a worthy replacement to good ol' FM.

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Joe
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Well a bloody great big clue....

...mIght be that people will buy a DAB radio when signal strength is enough they can get more than a handful of stations - here in Reading I get two.

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The Persuaders

A very moot question, as it is now clear that at least half of England's Bingo halls will close due to the smoking ban, and their customers will need something to take their minds off the vandals who made it happen.

A very simple answer is to make it a crime punishable by a fine up to £2000 to not have a DAB radio AND and not having it playing at 70dB for at least 8 hours a day (all technically feasible).

With not much ingenuity it should be possible to have DAB radios report their usage stats back to the broadcasters, and fines for non-use issued automatically.

Of course that is not the idea. The idea is to have "experts" confirm that the analogue bands must be shut down to improve the service quality of the digital ones. The panel is necessary because well founded objections can be made that that is not an adequate solution, and it is these arguments that need to be concluded (i.e. trounced).

The whole little exercise is a model lesson in social engineering through applied psychology. It is not unique. (As if the Culture Secretary would be the first minister allowed to such mind-bending technology on a population of 60+ million!).

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Paris Hilton

Wow I must be a geniooois

The Government needs a working group to solve this thorny issue? It took me and a bottle of red wine a mere 2 seconds to work this out - Digital radios are too expensive. I don't want to pay 50 quid for a radio when I can get what i want off a 5 quid shitty radio from Tesco. If the prices drop to around 20quid a unit then i'll get one.

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Unhappy

Never mind the quality, feel the width

DAB has been widely criticised for poor sound quality, especially in this country where bitrates are too low - even on BBC Radio 3 it is barely adequate.

Generally IMHO the governments actions in forcing Digital Broadcasting, both TV and now radio, down our throats is pretty despicable, forcing everyone to buy new hardware, to receive inferior pictures and sound and then selling off the public assets of the broadcast bands to the highest bidder. It's greed and the market gone mad.

Sound Friend

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Try this for starters :

Since the Government are clearly too bloody stoopid to realise why people aren't bothering with DAB let me claim the "Captain Obvious" award for this thread.

1) I already have a number of existing radios in my car and house.

2) They work perfectly well thank you very much. And the quality is fine too.

3) Given statements (a) and (b) why on earth would I consider shelling out loads of money for DAB replacements?

Let's not even get into stupid points against DAB, like the shit coverage, the fact that I don't actually need either replay or pictures with my radio, or the fact that nearly all the new DAB stations I've heard about sound shit.

Is that enough to hold a select committee hearing around?

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Chicken and Egg

I will not buy a DAB radio until I can get DAB broadcasts! In the meantime people will listen on their FreeSat or FreeView box, if the broadcasters produce anything worth listening to.

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Stop

I think I know why!

To start with I must say I have a digital radio, (it was a wedding present) and it’s no different,

I don’t listen to commercial radio as it’s all just 12 songs and adverts for stuff I don’t want. The other added stations are obscure BBC radio channels like 1extra.

The quality that I’m told is so much better is no difference as my analogy radios all get perfect signal.

The tuning is just the same, you turn a knob and get a different station, analogy is not a complex thing to tune and RDS does what the digital display does anyway.

So to sum up, Digital Ridio’s unique selling point is it costs more...

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Unhappy

Pips are late

The hourly time pips are always late on DAB :(

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It's all been said...

Digital compression just knocks the stuffing out of music. DAB is for people without ears. Anyway a lot of digital channels are available on DVB-T (which is just as bad) so why bother with DAB?

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