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back to article BBC chief acknowledges DAB flop & internet radio

BBC Trust Chairman Michael Lyons has called for a review of its radio strategy - acknowledging the failure of DAB and the Corporation's neglect of internet radio. It's a call for a new direction that comes from the top - but some of his executives might need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Lyons didn't …

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Silver badge

Internet Radio == Good

Only last night I was up in the loft space running a CAT5 cable to the bedroom for an internet radio. This morning I was woken by the clear sound of voices from my local BBC radio station, instead of the crackly hiss that my previous bedside alarm radio could manage (and which got worse when the CFL bedside light was on).

As for DAB, no chance.

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Syd
Joke

Sorry I'm Late, Boss

But my internet connection was down, so my alarm didn't go off!

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Alert

Re: Sorry I'm Late, Boss

That's actually happened to me. Thank God for flexible hours, eh?

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JMB

BBC

"Two thirds of radio usage was catch-up or on-demand radio."

Don't you mean two thirds of digital radio usage, I find it very hard to believe that two thirds of all radio usage is iPlayer.

By Lyons definition, FM was a complete flop as take up after ten years was still very low.

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Maths

I'm going to guess that they mean 2/3 of BBC iPlayer radio listening was catch-up or on-demand rather than listening to the live stream...

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a*isk

"It's going to be a multiplatform world where analog radio, digital radio (of some kind) and internet radio all coexist."

I hope so, the DEB need to be repealed so that national FM radio can survive past 2015!

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Flame

How about a multiplatform DIGITAL WORLD

How about actually using some standard nice well behaved MP3 streams for the bloody radio so it can be listened to on any device - phone, media center, squeezebox, etc instead of only being available using Flash and working properly only on a PC.

I do not want radio on a bleeping PC, I want it on a RADIO of some shape or form which I can put in the kitchen or take with me to the garden even if it is being sent over the bleeping Internet.

Even provincial radio stations in cities with 30000 people in the 5th world countries can do it. Why is it so bleeping difficult for "the leader in digital broadcasting" to achieve the same?

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Boffin

RealPlayer's Corpse Still Relatively Warm, Actually

> Real Player streams were ended ten months ago

Dunno about Radio 1 - not a listener to beat music, m'lud - but Radio 4's RealPlayer stream certainly struggled on until sometime last month. Or maybe the month before.

Definitely dead now though.

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AM / FM

if it ain't broke

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Happy

Internet Radio

Stand-alone Internet Radio appliances ($100-$500) are slow to boot, ponderous to program a station, and generally a nuisance. iPhone Internet radio apps (Free-$7) are (for the most part) instant, flexible and easy to use.

BBC Podcasts are wonderful. Listen for many hours per week.

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Internet Radio

I dropped DAB and FM some time ago and now listen principally to BBC Radio 3 via a Logitech Touch on my audio system. (Belcanto monoblocks + QUAD Electrostatic 2905) . At 96 KHz sampling rate - excellent.

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Squeezebox

Yes, the Logitech Squeezeboxes do iPlayer radio very well indeed (and much more besides). Highly recommended

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Not in the slightest bit true

I have a Phillips Streamium. It loads in 4 seconds, has a great inteface for browsing the thousands of stations available by genre, location etc. and also streams all my MP3s over a wireless connection. I loves it.

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Radio on iPlayer

"Listeners are discovering radio on iPlayer in spite of the BBC's help, not because of it."

They're not exactly hiding it. On the default BBC home page there are "Listen Live" (iPlayer) links to all national BBC stations.

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Stop

Re: Radio on iPlayer

Made perfect sense to me. Watching telly, just about every Beeb program has a continuity annoucement telling you you can catch up with <whatever> on iPlayer. Also, everything I've ever heard about the sodding thing 'til today mentioned it in connection with telly.

As a result I'd thought it was video only until I read this. I have actually listened to their streaming services from their website for some years now (Test Match Special mostly - FWIW) but I'd never made the connection to the "iPlayer" for some reason*. A quick check shows that the window generated does say this these days - I'd just never noticed.

I think what's being pointed out is that they're not exactly going out of their way to advertise this. You know, like actually telling anybody.....

*Probably the reason that they've actually been streaming stuff online since quite some time before there was an "iPlayer" and I've missed the cuddly, corporate rebranding exercise.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Radio on iPlayer

Now let's see. A broken FAQ, a WM link that goes to... Microsoft's Windows Media landing page, and the duff Real info.

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@Code Monkey

So what?

If you try to use "Listen Live", it's not always working.

You get a message saying that Radio 3/4 whatever is not available at that time.

Typical BBC: no rationale, clickable link that does nothing.

(Yes, it doesn't always not work.)

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What I can't figure out

Is why they can have an entire season of a TV programme available for 3-4 months after it's broadcast, but they only keep radio programmes there for a week.

I missed something on R4 the other day because I only remembered about it 7 days and one hour after it was originally transmitted, so I wasn't allowed to listen again.

Mind you, it's all a bit hit-and-miss, it's almost impossible to say with TV programmes will be available for any length of time and which won't.

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Too damn right!

Due to the lack of decent streaming services from the BBC, I've ended up listening to live digital radio through TuneIn and watching live digital TV through TVCatchup. (Perfectly legally - I pay the licence fee).

BBC iPlayer is all very well and good, but they need to extend it to include ALL live stations, not just the occasional sporting event; and the live radio part doesn't appear on my iPhone (the on-demand part is fine).

They are SO nearly there... just need a tiny bit more effort... mainly, as you say, in publicising the great stuff they already do!

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DAB was dead on arrival

There are hundreds of thousands of former Brits, dare I say millions, scattered all over the world who listen to the BBC via short-wave or the InterNet. The World Service only fills part of this listening requirement as these wandering souls, of which I am one, want to hear the 'home' services of the BBC, just as they did in their years in the UK.

The proof of the popularity of the BBC is the fact that National Broadcasting radio and television services have such high audience counts for the BBC originated programming. Notwithstanding the BBC has it's fare share of 'junk' the news, drama, factual documentaries set the benchmark for such programs.

As I sit on my small patio overlooking a lake in Indochina, or deep in the interior of Laos I can enjoy some sanity over the digital InterNet not the digital DAB. The iPlayer is not appreciated as it represents unneeded computer overhead. We can still view BBC video as if we were sitting in the UK, thanks to private proxies, as well as record programming for later viewing.

If the BBC spent it's budget more judiciously to HELP listeners access programming instead of wasting it creating technical challenges that simply provide work for the gifted to circumvent.

IMHO opinion, the current Director General is as out of touch as many of his predecessors were, along with the BBC Trust.

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If you pay your license fee why not?

....... oh you don't! Well go subscribe locally.

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Can anyone explain the point of DAB?

In the situations where I'm actually listening to it, FM seems fine to me. There's no point in having crystal clear audio if it's played against a background of road noise, or the melody of chavs setting fire to a tramp on the train.

More channels in the spectrum? Playing what, exactly? To cover your costs, you need to play Geezer Rock or Chartwank. Fragment the audience, and you'll just need to drown them in commercials - you know, like in the US.

I suspect that the audience for DAB is a couple of thousand hard core audiophiles crouched in their soundproofed techno-bunkers, ears cocked for the slightest distortion or perceived degradation.

Thing is, they'll still be miserable anyway because they've just read a review-vertisement in AudioJizz Monthly telling them that their 2009 model Unobtanium-coated cross wiffler spangledoods are pathetic relics that are ruining their audio experience, and they need to spunk another £500 to upgrade their system. It's really better in the long run to not encourage or pander to deranged audiopaths like that.

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actually

Most proper audiophile magazines push FM because of the crappy bitrates and compression that DAB offers

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JMB

FM

I recently took my Pure Highway out of the car whilst I took it up to the garage for some work - 60 miles away. DAB drops out briefly two or three times in the same journey but FM had multipath distortion and flutter most of the way, it actually got quite irritating after the good reception on DAB.

An extra DAB relay station and it would be perfect all the way - there are two DAB transmitters and three FM ones on the route.

It is rubbish that FM is perfect reception, it can be good in a fixed installation with a decent antenna but not always. DAB is poor usually because more transmitters are needed.

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Coffee/keyboard

<title/>

"Unobtanium-coated cross wiffler spangledoods"

New keyboard please!

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DAB sound idea but already superseded

I think digital radio is an excellent idea, but the DAB implementation has the misfortune of choosing a crappy audio codec, radio sets are expensive and bulky (compared to a regular radio), there are regional incompatibilities, and there is not enough incentive for listeners or stations to switch over.

Personally I think the whole handheld / mobile audio & video situation is a bloody mess. Someone like the BBC should be leaning on the government and the EU to mandate a single Europe wide standard and accelerate a timeline for its adoption.

DAB+ might be one answer but since DAB is not forwards compatible with it, maybe they need to consider something else, a single standard that supports video, audio, metadata through handheld devices. For example DVB-H or H2. Whatever they choose I hope they push it with more urgency than they did with DAB otherwise it will suffer the same fate.

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Anonymous Coward

Seemed like a good idea at the time...

Actually it was the BBC that leaned on the government and the EU to mandate a single Europe wide standard and accelerate a timeline for its adoption - only it was DAB that they invented and pushed for.

Hence, I suspect, their current hesitancy.

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But the timeline was way too long

DAB turned up in the UK in 1999 and the phasing out of FM is still some vague future event even now. Ofcom (whose job it is to manage this stuff) could have turned the screws a lot faster than that such as by refusing to renew broadcaster's licences unless they went DAB (or DAB+), squeezing the available spectrum, mandating that devices after a particular manufacture date must support DAB+ and so on.

Digital TV has been around as long as DAB, is arguably more complicated than radio yet the analogue switchover is already in full swing. It's pathetic really to see radio so far behind.

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FAIL

DAB Chicken or Egg?

I am a relatively "early adopter" of DAB and have had two Blaupunkt Woodstock DAB radios in various cars over the last 5-6 years.

DAB was rolled out to main BBC sites but the program of secondary and tertiary fill-in transmitters still does not appear to be complete. As a consequence there are many significant stretches of main roads and motorways without coverage from the BBC Mux. Likewise, in the centre of Worcester (my home city) there is little coverage.

My tuner spends more time on 693 and 909 for Radio 5 Live than it does on DAB!

I wrote to the BBC regarding poor coverage in Worcester and around M1/J33-J36 and got a fairly "snotty" reply saying that they could not guarantee coverage for various reasons.

How can Auntie Beeb decry a lack of uptake when it has only half-delivered the goods? What we need is for the Beeb to get their finger out - and:

a) complete rollout of the network and provide UNIVERSAL coverage, ie. to a handheld device *ANYWHERE* in the UK mainland

b) turn off the medium-wave and long-wave transmitters and save pumping hundreds of kilowatts of RF in to the ether and "go green"

This would result in:

* significant uptake of DAB (by phasing out MW/LW)

* improved quality of radio programs

* save huge sums of money (by decommissioning MW/LW) - just the electricity bill alone!!

* allow Auntie Beeb to claim green credentials

Mike

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: DAB Chicken or Egg?

> What we need is for the Beeb to get their finger out <

And spend £150m.

Which it sees no need to do.

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Go green with DAB?

Thats hilarious...I have several battery FM radios that will run for MONTHS on a set of batteries. Show me a DAB unit that can do ANYTHING remotely close to that.

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WTF?

Re: Re: DAB Chicken or Egg?

Yes, if £150m spend would fix it then that's what it should (perhaps) do... well at least consult and discuss.

How much would it save by de-comissioning all LW and MW sites? Both in terms of:

* rental (land, equipment)

* service charges (Arqiva)

* electricity

* distribution network

... I bet its a lot!!

I can see no point in having "half a delivery platform" ?

Mike

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Unhappy

Uh, and...?

Reading the headline made me cautiously excited, but nowhere in the article that followed did they go on to commit to any actual rethink of the DAB technology, which is what many of the commentards here have assured me is one of the cardinal sins of the whole bunfight.

So this moment of clarity, for all its pathos, doesn't actually seem to offer any glimmer of hope that the disastrous tech spec will be revised before it really is too late (or has that horse already bolted?)

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Same old, same old

I'm amazed that it's taken so long for the BBC top brass to realise their strategy had failed.

As usual with civil servants making strategic decisons on technology, they got it totally wrong. Even 10 years ago DAB was a dead technology. The UK opted for it, but no-one else did...not even our European "partners".

So whether or not the BBC went ahead, the UK was always going to be number 1 on a list of 1 for DAB usage while the rest of the world sailed away, over the horizon on a completely different system. At least t'internet has reopened the door to the BBC to deliver global, standards based broadcasting - now all we have to hope is that they manage to stagger through it.

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Stop

Re: Same old, same old

Not sure where Homeboy gets his idea that "... the UK opted for it, but no-one else did..."

DAB was an European project (Eureka 147 if my memory serves) and was a technological leap forward for all members of the project.

The *majority* of Europe has DAB service:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Audio_Broadcasting

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Digital_Audio_Broadcasting.svg

Mike

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Anonymous Coward

Not sure where wikipedia got that content...

... but it's not in the least neutral. It looks to me like an advertorial of the DAB-lobby, including claiming implicitly FM to be firmly in the past. I'm in the Netherlands and while the chart may say "regular service", nobody I know has even noticed. The TV broadcasts, however, have gone all-digital and *there* you can find digital radio too. But analogue radio isn't going to go away soon, in fact there are no plans to make that happen exactly because of poor quality audio delivered by DAB.

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Radio 4 on internet is waste of bandwidth...

...I have internet radios all through my house. I listen to stations from all over the world, usually at 96Kbs - and this gives fine quality. However, why is BBC Radio 4 256Kbs?! It is only talking, and doesn't need the huge bandwidth required.

My neighbour has an internet radio similar to mine - where if you cycle the power it automatically starts playing the last station (Radio 4) - and there was a power cut when they were on holiday. 2 weeks later, they had used all their internet download allowance...

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Not talking about it?

"The BBC is already a major player in internet radio - it just doesn't like to talk about it."

So why is it that whenever the news comes on during my drive to work, I hear "BBC Radio 2, **online**, on digital and on 88-91 FM"?

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Pure Digital nobbles its Wi-Fi radios

@JeffyPooh,

"Stand-alone Internet Radio appliances ($100-$500) are slow to boot, ponderous to program a station, and generally a nuisance."

Nope. Pure Digital Wi-Fi Internet radios are (deliberately) slow to boot, (deliberately) ponderous to program a station and generally a nuisance, but that's because Pure Digital are as much opposed to Internet radio as the BBC and the rest of the DAB industry are.

If you buy a Roberts Wi-Fi radio though, it tunes into an Internet radio stream very quickly (whereas a Pure Digital Wi-Fi radio takes about 15 - 20 seconds before audio starts playing - Pure's marketing director Colin Crawford told me this long delay was to "make it easier" for listeners - bollocks, it's to put people off listening via the Internet, because their BBC masters don't want people to do that), navigation is simple, and they're overall good to use.

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JMB

Pure

The Pure Evoke Flow is even worse on batteries, it can take a couple of minutes sometimes to get it on. Most annoying is when you press the power button to switch on, after a delay you get a message on the screen if you want to turn it off!

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Internet Radio

I listen to Internet radio via my Logetech Squeezbox, specifically 6 music. In fact I see no reason why all radio cannot be delivered in this way.

Add to that that using the internet its possible to go beyond stereo to 5.1 surround sound.

I think the reason that the BBC hasn't moved to real sound broadcast on the internet is because it would kill DAB stone dead.

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Silver badge

One reason

Might be that not everyone/everywhere has a broadband net connection....

(e.g. portable radios, cars, little old ladies)

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Happy

Webb radio listnings....

Most listnings of webb radio are stations in the AM/FM/DAB broadcasting bands.In Sweden now webb radios are asking for a licence in the dabplus band. The L-band is free to broadcasting from August in Sweden, webb radios needs more listners and more ads and better rates and the way out is to get a broadcasting licences. 12+ channels to nat. dab+ is aviable in Sweden. No fee, only 3.000eur 8 years. The band lll will be later with 500- 1000 licences.

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@Can anyone explain the point of DAB

It lets the government sell off big chunks of FM spectrum ?

Not sure who would want to buy FM spectrum, except other FM radio stations !

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Contradiction

Okay, I fully expect to be shot down, as I was in the thread about 6music.... but on one hand we have the BBC saying DAB is failing, on the other, 6music needs to carry on......

But I agree, BBC should invest in internet radio for the masses; mostly car radios (in fact, the fact that DAB hasn't taken off in car, is a big sign of failure)

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JMB

Internet Radio

Most cars have also not got Internet radios in the car.

DAB was designed for use in cars and with enough transmitter it works well at doing that.

DAB is free, Internet access needs a contract, even if it comes with some free bandwidth you cannot guarantee that will always be the case. 3G coverage is limited perhaps more so than DAB.

In the event of an "incident" then lots of people trying to access the Internet through the same base station is going to run out of bandwidth and also access could be lost because of ACCOLC. Could a mobile phone base station cope with all lanes of the M1 stationary and everyone trying to listen to the radio through an Internet connection.

Don't forget that any Internet access through a mobile phone type device is covered by the The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003 so changing station could be an offence under that act.

(4) A device referred to in paragraphs (1)(b), (2)(b) and (3)(b) is a device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.

(c) "interactive communication function" includes the following:

(iv) providing access to the internet;

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Happy

Benefits of BBC radio on the internet ...

As someone else said, BBC radio on the internet predated iPlayer by years ... I still have bookmarks to "aod" (Audio on Demand) and "ListenAgain" which were two of the links/brandings used before iPlayer for audio material.

A *great* thing about BBC radio on iPlayer is that it is not IP-address locked, so I can be in the US or Germany or anywhere else, and listen to the excellent comedy and music programmes that the BBC produces (but not the 5Live F1 coverage ... bah!)

And since my (central London) office gets internet from a European ISP, my work machine IP address stops TV iPlayer, but I can still listen to "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" and whispering Bob Harris while working. Fabulous. I listen to 2-4 hours of BBC radio a day while working, and have the radio on in the kitchen when I'm home ... (and often I'll set the VirginMedia box to some channel in the 900s so I can listen to BBC radio in the bedroom, where I have a cable box but no radio).

One advantage of losing the RealPlayer links is that I can now listen to all of the BBC radio material, as before only the big stations/shows got through my work firewall (Real streaming needed a port that was blocked), but now I can listen to any of the stored shows.

What good is DAB? There are far more places in the UK that have DAB coverage than a decent wifi connection, so once I've bought a DAB car radio, I can listen to 6music and BBC7 while driving, without having to pay for exorbitant 3G data connections. But I don't ... Radio 1-4 on FM and 5live on AM give me most of my in-car audio entertainment. DAB radios are too expensive, and use too much power (which I'm told is why you don't find DAB radio in mobile phones)

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I'd like an internet radio

With WiFi. Mainly for Kawaii-Radio and AnimNFO (sp?). There's one on sale here for €89. There's an all-singing-all-dancing FM/DAB/net at Tesco.co.uk for £££. Argos? Nothing. Asda? Nothing? Surely you can get a basic WiFi internet radio for around £50-ish, given I've seen quotes of $80 (which is £52).

I am, frankly, quite surprised how little Internet Radio equipment seems to be around. Am I looking in the wrong places? Pointers would be appreciated - in the UK or in France.

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Anonymous Coward

A great listings site

Better than 'owt from the beeb itself:

http://www.iplayerconverter.co.uk/choose_aod.aspx

Recording and re-encoding to another format for later enjoyment is left as an exercise for the reader.

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