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back to article Local radio stations band together against DAB

Ofcom's DAB consultation is supposed to be about measuring coverage and assigning multiplexes, but more than 50 local radio stations have teamed up to voice their frustration over the whole process. The consultation was published back in June, including questions about how FM and DAB coverage should be measured and whether …

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Anonymous Coward

I have DAB

Bought for me as a christmas present.

Its rubbish. Bought it to listen to 6music at work mostly. Moved offices (to the one below) and now I get no signal at all. Note that I work in a city and I'm next to the window.

The secondary reason was to plug it into the car to listen to - again, no chance at all.

If I'm sat still, next to the mast (so I can get a signal) the bit rate is awful anyway. This isn't the sort of change that digital TV has brought us (better colours, more stable picture, more channels, dolby digital, HD etc) this is a serious downgrade!

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Anonymous Coward

I agree

... it is a car crash that has already happened. The DAB wrecks line the digital transmission highway. I guess that they can't see the "invisible gorilla."

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Anonymous Coward

DAB is crap

I bought a DAB radio. The reception is utter rubbish. Drops in and out a lot of very local London stations. If it does that for local stations it will not work at all if you get out in the country a bit.

Am I supposed to fork out more cash for a dab radio for the car now? And when I go over to Europe? I'm going to have to make sure it's both dab/fm. No point.

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FAIL

The companies who run the service are (IMHO) a cartel.

Only a "yoghurt" would choose to point their entire output at this as a channel.

It's such a shame that the small licensees are not protected from the digital legislation.

Good job and well done to the operators that chose this opportunity to do this, but I fear it's all a waste of time.

Maybe they should have engaged The Friends Of Radio 3 in this consultation too, those mad bastards (and you think NIMBY's were a pain in the arse) would get wound-up and march on OFCOM with pitch forks and burning torches if the knew that R3 would possibly loose bandwidth to accommodate even more pop stations.

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Anonymous Coward

DAB Coverage may be what the consultation is/was about but....

Clearly there is a significant issue that Ofcom is not addressing. Why have the public failed to be convinced of the virtue of DAB?

If there is not virtue or value in DAB why is it being forced, at public expense, on an unwilling and unreceptive public and broadcasting industry.

We, the taxpayer, pay for this service that we appear not to want, that is lacking in fundamentals of quality and availability, never mid coverage, and yet are completely ignored when we say "please justify this lunacy and pause until you've got it right". I'm not a Ludite even if this rant may make me seem so. I am, however not at all sure that DAB is as good an idea as the Civil Service techies and mandarins seem to think it is

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Gold badge

"Why have the public......"?

Easy one. 'Cos it is of absolutely no benefit whatsoever to them and in many (possibly even most) cases is actually a hinderance.

The only people who benefit from it are OFCOM, who get to satisfy their objectives and collect their massive bonuses after flogging off the free spectrum as promised and the government, who get the cash.

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I have DAB

Its great. I get no dropouts in the car and I only have a little glass mount antenna.

The best bit is I don't have to listen to the BBC or capital group stations. I actually get to listen to something good.

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Happy

I've got DAB in my car too, works fine with the stubby antenna on the roof, signal doesn't degrade to bubbling mud, it just cuts out.

I live in rural North Lancashire, bordering Cumbria, and the signal is OK most of the time.

During the summer it was perfect, I could listen to TMS in crystal clear digital audio, then when I did reach somewhere the DAB signal didn't I could just drop down to 198 Long Wave.

Yes indeed, the Boost radio in the MINI has DAB and Long Wave, I suspect there's a cricket fan on the MINI design team...

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Anonymous Coward

You don't have problems with DAB in a car. Well, Sir, you are either a liar or you don't travel very widely at all.

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FAIL

DAB in the car....

Perhaps "blackcat" lives in the countryside, in close proximity to a higher powered DAB transmitter and never drives more than five miles in any direction. Most of us don't. Those of us who live in the real world get abysmal DAB "service" at best and it's completely useless in a car in a city.

DAB is broadcast using ancient technology - it's a corrupted form of MP2 - and wasn't designed for reduced bit-rates. There are NO high quality services on DAB in the UK. Even Radio 3 is of appallingly poor audio quality (despite having the consistently highest bit-rate), and most of the rest are much lower quality mono dreck.

OFCOM really LOVE the outrageous fees they can charge for DAB, and finance themselves and their inflated salaries by fleecing the station operators.

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Happy

I'm not a liar, and I do travel quite a lot, about 2,000 miles a month

I drive from North of Lancaster to Manchester three times a week, 65 miles each way. The DAB signal drops a couple of times for about 30 seconds.

If I drive north then it drops more frequently, and that's the point, it drops, it doesn't go to the bubbling mud, it's either there, or it isn't.

I'm not saying this is the experience everyone will have, but it works for me.

by the way, at least I've got the guts to use a name, unlike someone who's just called me a liar

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Happy

IIt's a good quality radio in the MINI. I have the same car and the same DAB radio. I spend most of my driving time in and around London and the home counties. Coverage is as good as I got on the FM radio in my old car. Of course, if you're tuned into the Essex multiplex and you drive to Hampshire you will lose the signal. That's no different to FM.

What I like about DAB is the enhanced choice. FM (with a few exceptions) seems to be filled with the same 10 commercial stations no matter where you are. The same playlists, the same message and even the same jingles in a lot of cases. DAB has a lot more smaller stations available and gives me access to a much wider range of music.

In my opinion DAB is not as good as FM - it's better.

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Bronze badge

"by the way, at least I've got the guts to use a name, unlike someone who's just called me a liar"

Ha! Guts? Really? Brains, no. I wasn't replying to your post I was replying to Blackcat. Oh and that's your real name is it? Alan 6? Strange surname you have there.

Oh, and I always post anonymously when I'm at work.

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FAIL

Bahaha!

"You don't have problems with DAB in a car. Well, Sir, you are either a liar or you don't travel very widely at all."

I've had DAB in my cars for about the last 9 years and I've been quite far in that time. Its quite nice being able to drive most of the way across the country and never have to retune. There is a dead zone on the M4 where you go between some big hills but that is about it. FM dropped out there as well.

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Well that's a good honest name there Grease Monkey, yes I'm called Alan, the number 6 was applied by the El Reg servers, there must be another 5 Alans in here somewhere.

Interesting how us drivers with DAB radios in our cars are all being down-voted for being honest - yes DAB in cars does work...

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Happy

DAB is awesome

I've been using DAB for 5+ years and currently have 4 DAB radios in my house. They all get fantastic signals and most importantly a wide range of stations that simply aren't on FM. The vast majority of stations use a decent bit rate and give great sound. The only ones that I know are poor Absolute 90's and talkSport.

If you live in a poor signal area you should be pushing for more transmitters.

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Anonymous Coward

Research has shown that the vast majority of radio listeners stick to the same channel all the time. So the greater choice of channels is a red herring. Give most people DAB and they will listen to the same station as they do on FM.

As for more transmitters I live close to a big transmitter and the signal is fine, but several stations that are available on FM are not available on DAB. Yes there are more stations on DAB overall, but like Freeview and Freesat most of the extra stations are dross. Of the stations that are not available one of them is very popular and is the one that I have as my traffic station in the car. As such DAB would be no use to me in the car for the commute. It's not that we necessarilly need more transmitters, for a start they could do with putting the stations that are on FM on the transmitters they already have.

I'm lost as to how anybody could need four DAB radios in the house. Presumably you have a PC and digital TV so you have digital radio already and with a wider choice of channels in any room with a PC or TV. And if you have a portable DAB why don't you just take it into the room where you are?

But you're probably as pro-DAB as you are because you've committed to it so heavilly. For me they could chuck DAB in the bin tomorrow and I wouldn't bat an eyelid. You, on the other hand, probably would.

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FAIL

"Give most people DAB and they will listen to the same station as they do on FM."

But I can't listen to the 3 or 4 stations I like on FM as they DO NOT EXIST!

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Anonymous Coward

@ Tim Baker

"If you live in a poor signal area you should be pushing for more transmitters."

Yeah, because that's likely to work, isn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Consultation replies

Looks like they only had 34 responses and I'd expect that its heavily skewed towards the people who want to be negative about DAB and maintain that it is always inherently worse than FM.

Interestingly couple of weeks ago I was staying in Kew and walked past a new building housing the "Musical Museum" ... looked it up on the web and it looks to be the same colleciton of mechanical musical instruments I visited in another location as a school kid 30-ish years ago where we were shown round by the man who had pulled the collection together. He was absolutely adament that all this new fangled stereo LPs etc could never properly reproduce music and that the only true way to listen to any piano music was via a pianola (mechanical piano) playing from a "recording" (big paper tape recoding timing and pressure of key presses) made by the composer. Doubt he'd would have liked DAB either!

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Silver badge

Bad comparison there

DAB is demonstrably rubbish and already obsolete in the rest of the world.

A better comparison would be if OFCOM were insisting we should all replace our pianolas with cylinder recordings, when the rest of the world are using stereo LPs.

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The car crash has already happened...

... Ofcom's revenue plan is to take on the role of "Claims Direct".

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Mushroom

Switch off FM BandII?

And what value is the Spectrum for anything else given it's too low a frequency for Cell type management and the Community stations would still be on FM Band II anyway.

FCC, Ofcom and Comreg have all lost the plot on service planing and spectrum management.

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FAIL

I Don't use DAB any more

I have a clock radio with DAB. After far too many mornings being (only just) awoken by a quiet click followed by a resounding silence, I've switched it back to the far more reliable FM.

To be honest on a clock radio you can't really notice any difference in quality either, especially when it competes with haird driers, electric razors, electric tooth brushes, etc.

I really wont bother again.

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DAB is excellent

Well, not quite, but I thought I'd try to introduce a little balance.

I have DAB in the car and the range of stations available to me in rural Suffolk is vastly superior to FM - I can actually find things I want to listen to. Possibly the bit rate is poor but I'm afraid I can't tell: it sounds the same as FM most of the time and better the rest.

I have driven 120,000 miles in the car and have had barely a handful of signal dropouts on national stations. And listening to Test Match Special on Five Live Sports Extra is pleasant and practical - compare with the same programme on Radio 4 long wave where the quality in the car is hideous and I used to get deafened every time I went under a high voltage cable.

Are too many DAB radios being sold with aerials that aren't up to the job?

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Anonymous Coward

Yep, a lot of the cheaper units come with crappy wire aerials that you can't even replace. As always you get what you pay for.

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Suffolk

Strange as I live and work each side of the Norfolk/Suffolk border, drive up and down the A140 to work and I maybe get a digital signal for a third of the 15 mile journey at best

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I refer you to my comment about aerials not being up to the job. I get an uninterrupted signal between the A14 and Diss; can't comment about further north.

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Mushroom

DAB is double crap

Bought a Sony DAB and filled it with batteries - it ran for about 6 hours giving poor and unstable sound - I can see the local transmitter out of my office window (though it did provide a localised heat source on my desk - why do these thing run so hot?).

I removed the back of the radio then stabbed the inards with a screwdriver replaced the cover and returned it to the shop next day for a refund.

Fuck Sony for making such a shitty piece of kit - wasting my time and batteries.

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Thumb Down

What is the point?

Really, what is the point of changing to DAB? Is it any 'better' than FM in a manner that counts to the end user, lets see:

More channels? Yes, initially, but most were crap and a lot have dropped out now.

Better sound? No, most are on low bit rate (cheaper, see?) and crap.

Interference/multipath protection? Partly, but no use if the signal is below threshold anyway.

Ease of use? Not really, tuning an FM radio is hardly challenging, and short battery life for DAB is a serious loss of 'ease of use'.

Cheaper? No.

Ah, FM spectrum worth a bob or two? Maybe, just maybe. But for whom? What service really wants that band and is it of any use to use, the public?

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FAIL

DAB = Dead And Buried

We need a European standard (at least) for digital radio. DAB isn't it. I haven't bought a DAB radio a) because I don't need one and b) because I don't want to add to the statistics.

I can get digital channels on Freeview (a misnomer because it's not free and half the channels you can't view) and I can record programmes on my PVR. I haven't seen a personal DAB recorder though maybe one exists.

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Anonymous Coward

Freeview

Freeview != Digital Terrestrial TV

Freeview *is* free.

The channels that aren't Free are part of DTT, but not part of Freeview. The clue is in the name.

(PS Satellite TV isn't just Sky, either).

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@Richard Porter.....

"We need a European standard (at least) for digital radio"

Why ? FM is standard all across euro land.

But this about this : 300 million FM radios, in the UK alone, being dropped in a massive hole in the ground. And being replaced by 300 million Chinese made boxes that do exactly what 90% of people want, play some radio. Which is exactly what FM does now.

And, you want have to fanny around with your car radio, swapping it for an DAB thing because FM has gone.

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Anonymous Coward

DAB Already DEAD?

Most new cars dont seem to come with a DAB still? Maybe its a sign?

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Anonymous Coward

I have no problem with the sound quality on DAB (assuming I'm listening to a station that broadcasts at a reasonable bit rate) nor do I have a problem with reception (I live about a mile from a monster transmitter. What I do have a major problem with is the coverage.

As I said I live close to a big transmitter, but somebody has chosen not to stick our local BBC station on that transmitter. A such a large part of the county that is covered by that station can't get it on DAB. Worse still like everybody else at the BBC that station is supposed to be promoting DAB. How the hell can they do that when most of their listeners won't be able to listen to them on DAB.

So the DAB radio that my wife wanted for Christmas spends most of its time on FM. Sometimes it is on DAB to listen to 6 Music, but the problem there is that it's never too long before you get a DJ who gets right on your la las and you have to change channel.

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LPF
Thumb Up

Sorry but some of these replies are rubbish.

I have Used DAB in London Milton Kenyes, Luton , Leeds to name a few and for extended periods.

First thing ARIAL , ARIAL, ARIAL if you dont have a decent one you are screwed. Second it eats power, forget batteries unless they are rechargeable

Once day is locked in , the sound is crystal.

For those that don't like it , specify which part of the country you are in , and if you are using portable or fixed radio,

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Trollface

Aye, and what's the most decent Arial? Why, it's Helvetica!

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Anonymous Coward

Reply to post: Sorry but some of these replies are rubbish.

Maybe using an AERIAL would be more effective in getting a good signal than a typeface

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IT Angle

Given the choice

...I chose DAB every time. I hate the FM high-frequency hiss.

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Not completely without merit

Stations that are broadcast in mediumwave or longwave *only* are nicer to listen to on DAB.

But as soon as you compare with FM, all of the criticisms mentioned above mount up into an insurmountable problem: FM works and DAB doesn't compare well. The few strengths that DAB does offer just aren't enough.

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Anonymous Coward

Half the problem..

..is that DAB in the UK is broadcast at a bitrate that would be shameful even in Eastern Europe. MPEG layer 2 is a crunky old codec, and sounds like arse at the best of times. Unless you're a cloth-eared mope, or you're using DAB to listen in the kitchen while you crash around cooking, it sounds dreadful, compared to a decent FM signal.

When my main tiner accidentally got switched to DAB, it was smart enough to stay on the same station, so I didn't notice instantly. I became increasingly concerned that it was dying, as it sounded so rough. I was hugely relieved when I noticed that it was just craptastic DAB.

Really, truly, you're better off with a headless Freeview box to listen to radio, the bitrate is often better.

(Anon for.. well, *reasons*)

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FM blows dead goats

I have a number of FM radios around the house and none of them give anything like decent stereo reception. The three DAB sets we have on the other hand work beautifully....

Just in the interests of balance. Yes there are areas where DAB doesn't work very well, conversely there are areas, like my not particularly rural corner of Essex where it seems to be the only way of picking up anything remotely worth listening to and we get better reception of passing aircraft than anything else on FM

You could quite reasonably argue that assuming it's technically feasible (I've got no idea how the channel allocations would work out) putting more FM transmitters in to improve coverage and improve choice would have been a cheaper/better solution than DAB but DAB's what we got and, having got used to actually having a decent choice of programming I'd be jolly sad to lose it...

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Bronze badge

Yes that's right FM (a technology which has been tried and tested over decades around the world and is accepted as a good quality solution globally) blows goats. Whereas DAB (a technology which has been tested around the world and almost universally rejected) is great.

DAB is what we've got? No it isn't. An awful lot of people have no DAB reception at all. Take a look at the official coverage map. And the map (as usual) paints a rosier picture than is really the case.

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Mushroom

I read somewhere

that one of the signs of an attack on the UK that our nuclear sub captains watch out for, is the disappearance of BBC radio. Bye bye Moscow...

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Local radio

Isn't it just Heart FM these days?

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Bronze badge

BBC local provides a decent service, but it's not particularly music heavy. Most of the commercial stations have been bought out by Heart or Galaxy as far as I can see, the only local content tending to be the advertising. There how however some exceptions.

Where I live we can get Penistone FM, it's a small station and some of the DJs are a bit amateurish but it has a good range of music and content. We can also get Ridings FM which is equally amateurish and has no range whatsoever.

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JB
Happy

Local commercial radio??

When was the last time you heard an actual local commercial radio station, broadcast from your own town by local people? The consolidation that's happened in the last 20 years has just created another national broadcaster with a different name in each market.

Oh, and DAB is poor, I agree. Before I moved out to California, I ad a DAB radio, reception was pretty good but the way the bit rates were being squeezed made it horrible to listen to. Perhaps a system similar to HD Radio in the States, they even have digital radio on medium wave here!

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Anonymous Coward

Today...

Listened to BRMB and Kerrang (And a bit of Heart FM - the original one of course)

Admittedly I believe Kerrang is available online (or via DAB) to non-Brummies, but it's still a local station never the less - and all 'Heart' variants have some local content (specifically morning shows) even if most of the material is 'simulcast' across the group.

The local morning show is what most people would miss though (mainly for traffic news).

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Anonymous Coward

HD radio seems to be catching on in the States - even though it is a proprietary system. I wonder if this is because it uses the existing AM and FM wavebands and transmitters. For a given power, it'll certainly have much greater range than DAB because of the lower frequencies.

Here in Europe we have Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) which can use the long, medium or short wavebands. The recently released DRM+ can use the FM wavebands too. Both versions are superior to DAB yet few have heard of it. Probably something to do with the DAB lobby sitting on it as they try to force an outdated system on us.

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

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

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dvd

Nowt wrong with DAB

I have 3 DAB radios, 2 in the house and one in the car.

The reception's fine on all 3 in rural Scotland. The only drop out that I have experienced is on the M8 in Cumbria where I can't get FM either.

One radio's on its first set of batteries and the other is on its second.

The only criticism that I have is that the bit rate is too low.

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