back to article DAB: A very British failure

Emergency talks to save digital radio are taking place in Manchester today, the FT reports. Unloved, unviable, and often unlistenable, DAB is a technology the public clearly doesn't want; so it comes as no surprise to learn that coercion will be used to persuading the public to get on board. With DAB, we're expected to pay for …

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DAB radios suck

It's sad but true. Never mind "CD quality" we're nowhere near yet having a DAB radio that works with a less than perfect aerial or one where the batteries last more than a couple of days. I've got analogue radios here where the batteries last me a for months (4 C cells) or a couple of weeks on a single AAA. They work anywhere in the house on both MW and VHF. My DAB radio works ... sort of ... when plugged into the mains and carefully positioned - it's like VHF 20 years ago.

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Somebody's reading Catch-22...

I'm pretty sure I've spotted a higher-than-background level of Heller references round these parts lately...

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Dead Vulture

Apparantly it's for cars

I've never seen the point of DAB meself, since there are 10s of radio stations on Freeview, Sky, cable, &c &c as well as the innerned. One of my friends who is keen is a "don't have a TV" so very much a minority; another always says "it's for car radios" where you tend to use whatever's fitted unless you're a yoof with a Nova, sorry Corsa, so no wonder it's been ignored. RIP DAB, waste of money.

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Too much for too little

The two main issues with DAB uptake as I see it are:

1. DAB radios too expensive

2. DAB bit rate too low, needs to be 192K or higher (VBR based say).

Whilst DAB might be hiss free, it also sounds dead.

Traditional FM sounds more open and alive.

I have tested a dedicated DAB 'HiFi' tuner through a quality Hi-Fi and stations sounded worse than via TV Freeview equivalent.

DAB+ is the way to go by the sounds of things; just do it.

HD Freeview is already being mooted and existing Freeview boxes not compatible...

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Anonymous Coward

Waste of time

I'd rather buy a Toshiba HD DVD player than a DAB radio.

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Shock: commercial organisations blame their failure on somebody else.

Main advantages of DAB for me: BBC World Service, BBC Five Live Sports Extra, and 192kb/s (sometimes, although 160kb/s is also common) BBC Radio 3. I listen at home (through Hi-Fi and on a portable) and in the car. The sound quality on all of these is very good - the first two are often 64kb/s mono, but that's fine for sports commentary or news and current affairs - it sounds a lot better to me than LW or MW!

As for the commercial stations, I very rarely listen to them using DAB. It is even rarer for me to listen to them using FM or AM, since those I do listen to from time to time are available on DAB where I live, but not on any analogue carrier.

So from my perspective, it would be a great shame if the fact that commercial broadcasters aren't able to extract enough money from their advertisers to cover their costs causes certain BBC channels to become unavailable to me.

Internet radio would be a solution when at home (I already listen to some internet radio stations, but the extremely low data rate and consequent low quality of the BBC live radio streams means I use DAB for their channels), provided the quality improved, e.g. 192kb/s MP3 or better. That's no good for the car, or other mobile use, though, since I don't have sufficiently cheap high bandwidth IP connectivity there!

When there is a replacement, which I can use at home and when on the move, and which improves the quality, I'll use it. For now, though, DAB seems to provide a unique combination of choice, quality, and mobility, which I would be sad to see disappear.

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Dib Dob DAB

What a fantastic idea...

We "use" (steal) lots and lots of "public money" (donations, tax payments and the like)... re-routed from silly crap like hospitals and schools to fund the development of a technology that is bearly up-to-date. Then we take even more of that money (lets nick it from the science research and astronomical physics funding this time) to advertise the unwanted media, more money (ooo lemmi see, how about cancer research next?) to help with the switchover knowing only too well that before long we will have to rob the infant support groups to be able to afford to buy the whole shebang up so that it can be managed by the only competent people around (AKA the government of course) and maintain it with money gleened from pensions until it finally starts to make a profit at which point we can sell it off to the general public who never wanted the f**king sh*te in the first place...AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!! wibble...

...£66.5 million per Eurofighter plane... wibble...

...closing whole hospitals to save a couple of million... wibble...

...can't f**king sit down without the f**king Health&Safety c**ts wanting to see my licence to be anally rested.

Yeh - 3 f**king cheers for "Great" Britain ... home of hopelessness, capitol of chaos, the universe's centre for unhinged thinking.

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@ OpenSauce

Bitrates on Freeview are indeed higher than those on DAB ... hence the better sound quality.

Question: does one need a TV licence to listen to radio stations only using a Freeview receiver?

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@ OpenSauce

Oh yes, one can easily buy a portable DAB radio for £30-£40, or a separates tuner for £70, which doesn't seem very expensive to me! (For some reason the separates tuner has gone up in price - they were £40 when I bought mine!)

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Dead Vulture

Too expensive

DAB radios have been too highly priced for far too long. I know quite a few people who would like one but to their credit they're stubborn enough not to pay more than they think a DAB radio is worth.

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Stop

Rumours of DAB Death Exaggerated?

My aged Mum loves her DAB radio. At least 5 sets in the house already. Sister-in-the-sticks can't get it and wants switchover to happen tomorrow.

I see no failure.

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Black Helicopters

Its like digi tele all over again.

On my analogue tele when the signal drops I get a little snow and some white noise overlay. with digi, i get ear splitting cracks and pops and an artifact-y frozen display.

same with dab, less the picture.

Surely we can use the overblown/madeup climate change meme for a decent, profit killing purpose for a change - and kill DAB on the basis that it uses much more energy??

Sorry I forgot - climate change is only for extracting taxes and creating spurious new markets for corporate pigs to feed! my mistake.

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Ash

Radio?

Only thing I have listened to on the radio recently is Jeremey Vine on Radio 2, and that's only 1pm on Friday when Martin Lewis aka Money Saving Expert comes on.

Not a shameless plug, but statement of fact. Radio is boring programs and sensationalist news when I don't want it; i'd rather plug in my MP3 player and listen to music I like.

Completely illegally filled with music, by the way, because I can't rip songs and use them on another device. Sodding bullshit laws...

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Anonymous Coward

@Dib Dob DAB

...whatever figurs you want to work with, they pale into insignificance with the 100 billion pounds in hock to Northern Rock...

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Gates Halo

The funny thing is...

Out in the wilds of East Anglia, where radio masts are sparsely spread and reception is consequently poor for analogue stations, DAB is a godsend.

Our little DAB radio gives crackingly reliable reception and good clear sound. Unlike the hissy stuff we get from our FM radios (both in house and car), our DAB set locks on and stays locked on despite occasionally difficult conditions.

So far the alternative way of providing reliable reception and a larger number of stations would appear to be IP radio. Where I can buy my IP radio from for a sensible price? Can I also get one to fit in my hover-car?

Bill G because he must be feeling skint.

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British failure?

Erm. Didn't the same thing happen in Germany not a week or two ago?

Perhaps more people would use DAB if it were actually demonstrated. Or incentivised. Or if people knew they could listen to it through their freeview box (they are DAB right?).

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Flame

DVB-h

Not just for Movies.

Cheap chip set

Low power

Mobile

In some phones

superior codec gives much higher quality for same spectrum

Scrap DAB and change to DVB-h for radio.

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Linux

Eco angle?

Using a DAB box or freeview through your telly or your whole computer just to listen to the radio surely must fly against the current climate of using less energy.

An analogue radio will last for ages on small batteries so must be a more environmentally sound option than having to plug in large amounts of electrical equipment.

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Gates Horns

What a load of nonsense.

DAB is not only about quality of broadcast sound (which I would class as adequete and onpar with FM). It's about CHOICE..

Planet Rock, my radio station of choice is the only national station playing the music that shaped our country (Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles, Who, Pistols, Clash and soforth).

Whilst I can indeed listen to it on freeview/freesat, and occasionally do, I cant take my freview box to work, nor in the car...

It's imperitive that DAB survives, OR the FM licence is opened up to more stations. WHy can I pickup 4 different frequencies with Radio 4, another 3 with Radio 2, and several frequencies all broadcasting the same BBC Radio 1 service?

Why, when I go to the states, can they pack their FM frequency with loads of different stations.

Why when I go to the states, there is none of this nonsense with Sirius, it just works.

Would I be prepared to pay for a monthly Sirius licence in Europe, dam right I would...

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Paris Hilton

Work for commercial radio do you?

--

When given the choice, people prefer listening to real people, rather than the patronising "local" voice of the BBC.

--

I think you'll find you are wrong. Local BBC might be patronising, but at least it is local. How much of local commercial radio is streamed out from the same buildings in areas of the UK completely unrelated to their community? How much is just networked playlists? The only time local stations feature local content is during the adverts.

--

The BBC receives a large public subsidy (£800m) for creating its DAB stations, and doesn't have to show a commercial return while it builds up these digital audiences. And incredibly, when commercial operators win a bid for a license, they have to hand the "penthouse suite" - the portion of the multiplex with the best audio capability - to the BBC. Who'd be a commercial digital operator, with these constraints?

--

Or, to put it another way - the BBC has to build up the audience before a commercial station will decide to try and steal it away. And they can't even try to steal it for free! The barstewards!

Paris - because she built up an audience with digital content

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HiFi Buffs

They needed to get the HiFi buffs on-board telling the rest of us how wonderful it was at the start. Unfortunately, the bit-rates that were perfectly adequate for 99% of the population weren't good enough for the HiFi buffs, who've been slagging it off and whining and sulking ever since. Also, unless you live in London there's no local content.

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Happy

DAB radios suck

Retraction: One of my friends whom I said was keen and doesn't have a TV is no longer keen on DAB, in fact he says "DAB radios suck" in this very forum. He still doesn't have a TV though.

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Unhappy

Only just got one :(

My girlfriend just got me a nice little DAB for £25 which is great. I loved listening to The Jazz but it's being shut down. Planet Rock is great but it's being shut down and now, the whole damn thing might be killed off?!

If DAB radios had been available for the money we paid for mine about 1 year or so agao, uptake would have been much higher.

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What's the point?

Since we aren't allowed to record the CD quality music, and since the DJ's microphone *isn't* CD-quality, what's the point of having a CD-quality pathway to my ears? FM is good enough. (DAB may have more channels, but surely we all know by know that this doesn't mean better programmes. It's only *advertisers* who want more channels. Broadcasters and listeners alike want *fewer*.)

Rather than fork out for a DAB radio, I'm much more likely to fork out for a cheap PC-like appliance that I can plug into my home network and point at the "Listen Again" section of the BBC web-site. I get adequate sound quality and my own choice of programme.

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Happy

failure

the reason it failed is simple:

1) to get the early adopters, you need some sort of premium product so we can feel smug: broadband had faster net, etc

2) to get everyone else, you need a critical mass of early adopters to build a solid foundation with somethig to aspire to, and somethig else... Freeview had the DSO.

So, the solution? Upgrade the bandwith per channel to get the music freaks, and begin a RDSO.

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Flame

Only just got ½DAB here...

Funny that I'm living in Scotland, receiving DAB from a Scottish transmitter yet I can't get BBC Radio Scotland on DAB. Because it's not broadcast from my transmitter - no commercial multiplex (for the non-commercial BBC to offer it's service on), and according to OFCOM no application for one either.

Sound quality is crappy (compared to FM) thanks to the high compression, many stereo stations are mono or some hideous cobbled-together-bollocks-trying-to-pretend-to-be-stereo-but-failing.

Net radio might be an answer when not on the move, but certainly not for on the move (then again since the DAB coverage map here looks like Rab C Nesbit's vest nor is DAB).

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If it wasn't for DAB...

... we wouldn't, nay, couldn't listen to the radio. Absolutely dire FM reception here in geographically-challenged Farnham. DAB's not 100%, but it is vastly better than FM - and some of the multiplexes (e.g. the one with Virgin and Classic FM) have excellent signal strength. FM was comparatively a load of mush, on about the half dozen stations the average hi-fi tuner could pick up in the first place.

DAB's been badly marketed, pushed towards yummy mummies, snobs in general and minor-league sports fans. With no threat of an analogue switch-off, there's been no need for anything more coordinated and wide-reaching. With no need for commitment to the format, it's hardly surprising how (for example) bit-rates are economised, leading to the apathetic situation we're in now.

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Rubbish

Obviously most of us only have evidence from our everyday lives, but pretty much everyone I know owns or listens to DAB radios. The reception, here in Bath at least (where we can't even get Channel 5) is much better than FM, as is the choice.

I must admit that I don't care about commercial radio as it's almost universally awful, and while things like Radio 4 are indeed on FM, reception on DAB is so much better... plus I can see what's on thanks to the display. DAB sets are also just as cheap as FM ones (a quick check on Dixons' site just now found one at 25 quid). We don't all want Freeview, Sky or whatever, especially in every room in the house.

People do like to moan. DAB is here to stay - can you imagine the fuss if they stopped broadcasting it? This whole 'debate' is pointless.

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Unhappy

wibble...

regarding "£100 million" (and that's just for starters) for Northern Rock... yes - I was just working up to that when my bowls let go.

regarding "does one need a TV licence to listen to radio stations "... yes, one needs a TV licence if one owns any device that is capable of receiving television transmissions, regardless of the amount you watch or what channel you are tuned to.

The only instances I have heard of where people have got away with it are a friend of mine a number of years back who could adequately prove that he was incapable of receiving anything BUT channel 4 (and thus could not be expected to subsidise the BBC)... and myself, who has had the nice TV people send numerous threatening letters and then finally the detector van came round and a nice man announced that he had come to check... he found that the front room has soooooo much computer in it that I couldn't possibly be harbouring a TV too and promised not to sully my doorstep for the next 3 years.

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Go

Car Radios

I'm told Ford will be making the jump to DAB in new cars soon, which should act as a further catalyst for the digital switch - IMHO that's where most people listen to Radio normally outside of the workplace. One of the best DAB channels is best suited for the Car - Traffic, run by the Highways Agency - it's a god-send when you're stuck in a traffic jam for no apparent reason on the motorway, because they actually tell you what's going on!

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<3 Dab

I love my DAB set. No telly in the house, so the radio keeps me entertained. Radios 3 & 4, BBC 7, 5 Live Sports Extra - nothing else is needed.

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DAB Good, but won't last... RAJAR Rubbish !

I find it hard to believe any figures when it comes to radio - has anyone seem how RAJAR calculates is figures - a shockingly bad way of doing it (I know it is wikipedia, but it's interesting... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAJAR )

Anyway - I have a DAB radio and love it - 5Live much clearer than AM, etc. However, I can't see DAB lasting... as the article mentions, many homes have WiFi and it makes more sense to build a radio set capable of picking up internet radio stations (and how much more potential does that have !! timeshifted playback, etc, etc.))... the only problem outstanding is getting Internet Radio's into cars, where to be fair, a large majority of radio listeners exist.

Currently DAB take up for cars has been rubbish, but I'm sure with all these 3G networks, it won't be long until we can get Internet radio streaming to the car

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Guess what Ofcom stands for

At Ofcom do they think the "com" is really communitarianism, or communism, to enforce democracy? Hence no DAB+ before DAB, as that would be elitist. In the same way that multiplexing the sound quality out of DAB was democratic. (Funny how few other countries thought like that).

I suspect if someone invented a way of transmitting radio directly into the brain, the BBC would still be over you and them like a rat up a...

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JCL
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Great stuff

I've no problem with DAB if it helps others out in the sticks to get more stations. I know the stations do sound a bit dead, but the quality is fine for me, esp as I've been used to rubbish analogue quality. I don't listen to commercial stations because the "clever" adverts with stupid voices get on my nerves, so BBC it is. Now, getting a few foreign channels that are only available over the internet would be great (a bit like XM do in Canada).

As said before, the receivers are getting a lot cheaper, and some of them are even styled in a way that you don't want to leave them hidden in a cupboard - what WAS that with the retro 50s styling? I only wish I could recognise a few more of the brands.

Not a failure in my book.

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Boffin

Radio 6

We love DAB purely for Radio 6.

ps. I thought it used MPEG-1 Layer 2, not MPEG-2. Big difference.

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Go

Nationalize Planet Rock!

If they can save Nothern Rock my nationalization then why not the same for Planet Rock!

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Great to hear channels I actually like

DAB makes it easier for me to hear the World Service and BBC 6 Music. The quality's not brilliant, but neither is analogue. I'm looking forward to DAB+ and hoping they increase quality instead of adding stations.

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DAB costs so much to broadcast!

I think (at least how I understand it) that part of the reason a couple of the GCap DAB stations were canned (Planet Rock, Core, that Jazz station) was because it costs so much to broadcast on DAB.

At least broadcasting over the web pretty much only requires an encoder at the station, some bandwidth, and maybe the occasional reboot when it all falls over.

I was a bit disappointed to hear about the closure of Planet Rock, I regularly tuned into it when driving between sites for work and they often had Pink Floyd on (and other good rock music). I liked their jingles too :-)

I've also recently invested in a DAB radio. At least I can now listen to my local radio stations, as I couldn't pick them up before apart from listening online.

Rob

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DAB didn't work for us...

I bought one for the other half to wake up to. Alarm clock + perfectly tuned radio. Had to take it back for a refund.

1/ You couldn't set the thing to any other than the (automatically) correct time. Other half has this weird way of setting her alarm so it shows and goes off 1 hour early - then she is really properly awake in time to get up (Yes I know, but works for her though!)

2/ The DAB is out of sync with AM or FM so you need to upgrade all (3 at least in our house) the receivers otherwise they sound awful. And the signal heard via freeview is yet again at another timing.

Why the hell can't the techies get the chimes of big ben to go off at the same time? They all originate at the same time!

P.

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Stop

That's all bollocks.. DAB is great.

DAB is much better than that crappy old analog, even my mum agrees. You guys are living in the past. Yeh maybe we could phase out analog, or force radio manufacturers to make new models compatible with both.

Even if DAB is not quite CD quality - I can't tell the difference, and it makes old analog radios look really shite.

Price is a consideration. So all new radios should support DAB, or both, so that the price differnential is reduced. DAB radios should also be made cheaper. Maybe the government can subsidise DABs until all the Luddites have them. On this technology topic all you guys are acting like my grandmother's chihuahua: Fru-fru. Hi Fru-fru!

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It's all Ford's fault

I reckon the biggest problem is that they were never installed by car manufacturers. This is the only place a lot of people listen to the radio. For people who want alternative stations, 6Music, say, they they're pretty likely to have Sky/Cable, so don't need a player at home. Radio 4 types are unlikely to upgrade until their radio breaks, and radios don't often break.

Kids would rather spend the money on alcopops and mobile phones.

If they're going to pull the plug on it, then they need to do it sooner rather than later. The longer they leave it, the more DAB set owners will be pissed off.

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Planet Rock

I notice a couple of posters citing Planet Rock as a reason for listening to DAB - and I'd agree, but the bad news is that's one of the ones that didn't get enough listeners and is about to be chopped.

WTF did the BBC choose to transmit its crown jewel comedy material (Radio 7) in mono? Beyond belief.

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Low income families..

Am I the only one who is fed up with being screwed over by this damn government while 'low income families' - aka labour core voters - are subsidised by my bloody taxes?

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Anonymous Coward

@William Gallafent

No, you only need a TV licence to view pictures. If you've connected your Freeview box to a device with no video (say a hifi) then no TV licence is required.

http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/information/index.jsp

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Pirate

Why?

The only time I listen to *any* radio of any kind is when I am in the car - and a good 99% of that time, I am listening to podcasts and CDs full of music MP3s.

Of course, I don't have to pay a fee to listen to the radio, either. If I did, I wouldn't own a radio.

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Anonymous Coward

shoutcast and streamtuner, much better

shoutcast and streamtuner, much better

I’ve got two DAB radios and I don’t use them a lot. Used to listen to planet Rock then they uped the adverts and I switched off. DAB is rubbish. I use shoutcast now and streamtuner, much better.

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Dead Vulture

The easy way to convert people to DAB

All the BBC has to do is to *deny* rumours that 'The Archers' is moving to DAB only broadcasts. All of middle England will immediately rush out and buy the receivers...

Neil

(and another reason it hasn't been taken up - car radios with it intelligently integrated with FM are somewhat thin on the ground... e.g. 'oh look, the radio 4 multiplex has dropped off, I'll switch to R4 on FM instead' rather than the depressingly common 'oh, he's listening to news/speech type programming, hmm, what have we got that's similar?')

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@Ken Hagan

I use one of those MP3 player FM transmitters to send "listen again" streams from my computer to an FM radio. Also good for listening to digital only stations on freeview. It's probably not what the architects of the new digital age had in mind though.

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