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back to article NO! Radio broadcasters snub 'end of FM' DAB radio changeover

Some of the largest and most influential UK radio operators have joined a campaign opposing the upcoming mandatory digital switchover. The change would force major broadcasters to migrate to DAB, abandoning the ever-popular FM band to niche and local radio stations. Culture and comms minister Ed Vaizey is expected to outline the …

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Local listening

"only 15 per cent of local listening is done through DAB, which leave the smaller and more interesting stations in trouble"

Are the smaller stations actually interesting?

How many like Resonance FM are there out there?

A lot of them seem to be identikit chart pop stations that it is hard to imagine anyone really missing.

What are the good ones that I am overlooking?

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Re: Local listening

There are plenty of interesting local stations, but they either serve a tiny market, or operate without a license (so far as I could tell - I had some fantastic drum'n'bass station cut in to my DAB rebroadcast when my car went over the QEII bridge, and I'm assuming that the hyperactive loon, clearly broadcasting out of his shed, responsible didn't have a license).

Shunting the large commercial operators onto DAB would free up the FM space, and probably deal a death-blow to the identikit chart pop stations, which is win-win, in my book.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are the smaller stations actually interesting?

Who decides on what is "interesting"? Surely we need a more objective measure, although I am having trouble thinking of one.

I suppose I would like to construct some sort of diversity-vs-audience measure, where being different could offset low audience numbers. Anyone know of any good measures of radio-content entropy?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Local listening

Where I live they struggle to get any decent DAB stations, just a few useless usual suspects but nothing local.

Instead I now rely on Internet radio, can listen to the other side of the world if I want.

DAB feels like Betamax, vinyl, tape cassettes all rolled in to one.

No doubt that when DAB 4.1 is rolled out in three years time, then DAB 7.5 in ten years time we will be forced to buy new receivers as there will be no compatibility.

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Re: Local listening

There is a medium-sized town about twelve mile from where I live, with it's wonderfully eclectic community-run FM station. Alas, its signal peters out about a mile and half from my house.

I can listen to it over the internet, though.

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Re: Local listening

Spot on - if they actually were interesting they wouldn't be in trouble and trying to force the entire market to change to prop up their station, they'd be drawing crowds across to DAB and the majors would have to follow.

DAB - an expensive solution to a non-existent problem...

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Re: Local listening

There is a wonderful local radio station in Glasgow called Sunny Govan, complete with interesting characters, random banter and superb music (and sometimes music I don't like.. but its never bland... if you drive into work you sometimes get hiphop, othertimes led zeppelin) their signal is quite strong for a local radio, so I can (and usually do) switch over to them as soon as I get close to the city... or keep myself tuned to 103.5FM until all reception is gone.

I hope this digital switchover nonsense don't kill them off, as they are one of the few reasons I listen to radio at all :)

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TRT
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Oh yeah...

I saw some of those. Bit cr** aren't they? TBH, if they kill FM, I won't be listening to the radio at all. I do it in the car, and I'm not changing my car's radio just for that. Stoopid.

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No to FM switch off

No to DAB,

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Re: No to FM switch off

@Tom 7

"No to FM switch off "

This.

If it was good, take-up would be better than 15 or 23% whichever figure you choose.

DAM is ham.

*ham shank

SD

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I can't switch my car's radio for a DAB one, there simply isn't a DAB radio available to replace the factory fitted, integrated, analogue one. Why not just make stations broadcast on Google+, that will ensure that no-one listens.

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Things that need to happen

1. Legislation to make it mandatory for all new cars to be sold with multiformat (DAB, DAB+, DRM+) radios

2. Wait 10 years for new cars to become common

3. During that time develop new DAB radios that use as little power as an FM radio and are as cheap so people can replace all their portable radios and radios in phones.

4. Make DAB radio signal stronger so it can be picked up properly.

People don't need DAB radios in their houses. In your house an Internet radio is better. People need portable DAB in their cars and their hands, but until the above happens you can't turn off FM.

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Re: Things that need to happen

I agree with you that car listening is a key part of this issue.

But to be honest I struggle to imagine that legislation to force all EU imported cars to include DAB options would go too well... Considering the diversity of countries the cars are made in how many manufactures would be willing to change their spec sheet for the British market, and how much would they inflate the showroom price for doing so?

It almost seems more likely that new cars would become mobile internet capable, and together with investment in 3G/4G coverage (which is happening anyway) would increase the viability of internet radio in the car.

I remember when as a kid with an electronic set one could make a crude LW radio as long as you had an earth connection, and no battery needed at all! I can't see DAB power consumption ever getting that good, this is one of those 'advancements' in technology like VHS where the new thing is worse in many ways, having a much more compressed audio frequency spectrum and requiring more electronics to access this 'degraded' signal. OK, rant over!

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Streaming Radio

Yeah and every bit received goes off your download quota whereas DAB is BROADCAST to everyone.

Once you have paid for your receiver it is free to use.

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Re: Things that need to happen

>During that time develop new DAB radios that use as little power as an FM radio

Good point, but how? Consider what eats your batteries:

FM Radio = Amplifier

DAB Radio = Processor(s) for error-correction coding, OFDM modulation, packet mode statistical multiplexing, frame synchronization and audio decoding THEN amplifier

The absolute best case scenario is that you can, in time, get a DAB radio receiver to use ALMOST as little juice as an FM set.

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Re: Things that need to happen

I live in Canada, so we are not having the replace FM with DAB conversation here. However, the suggestion that you listen to your radio over the internet would not be appropriate in my house. I have many things that I do with my computer, and one thing I do not want to do is listen to the radio on it. I have a couple of cheap speakers and a subwoofer, but the sound is no where near the quality I get from my stereo system, which I just upgraded with a new pair of Warfedale Diamond 10.2 speakers. Additionally we use different logons rather than a single one and leave it logged off or turned when not actively in use.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Things that need to happen

I appreciate that you don't want to use your computer to listen to music.

However, there are lots of devices that can play Internet Radio besides your computer. You may already have an old smartphone in your drawer, or you may not. Even a brand new ( albeit cheap Chinese) Android tablet isn't much more than the price of a new DAB radio set over here. A second-hand Sony PSP works quite well for internet radio too.

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Re: Things that need to happen

No, none of those because Digital Radio of ANY system inherently can't adequately replace portable analogue radio.

DAB particularly (or DAB+) is a bad choice.

I used to believe in Digital Radio. But it's a terrible user experience and as an Expert on designing RF, Digital, Software etc, I can't see how it can be fixed. Never mind the power consumption.

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Mushroom

Re: Things that need to happen

Legislation to mandate radio connections in cars? Are you nuts?

Talk about taking a thermonuclear explosion to crack a peanut

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Things that need to happen

"I live in Canada, so we are not having the replace FM with DAB conversation here. "

That's because just like with TV, mobile phones, etc. etc. the colonies went with an inferior solution based on proprietary US technology and infected you with it...

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Unhappy

Re: Things that need to happen

"the colonies went with an inferior solution based on proprietary US technology and infected you with it"

Not all the colonies, only this one.

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Re: Things that need to happen

5. New DAB format invented. New mandate that car radios are upped to new DAB format.

6. Wait another 10 years.

Do that all and people would still rather have FM....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Things that need to happen

And you will make sure everyone has the internet as well?

Another do-good arse talker

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Re: Things that need to happen

Internet radio is better? I don't agree with that, the internet is not 100% reliable and what happens if you don't have the internet?

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Vic
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Re: Streaming Radio

> every bit received goes off your download quota

Your what?

Vic.

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I have a small FM radio I take to cricket matches, on one AAA battery it lasts the whole season. A cheap (pronounced disastrously expensive) DAB radio struggles to do the whole of one game on an AA. On the DAB radio the content is frequently unobtainable, or breaks up randomly, poor quality FM still brings you the content, DAB just brings you squawks and clicks. When what I want to listen to isn't available on real radio I usually resort to internet radio via 3g which comes to my smartphone and seems to be much more battery friendly, less prone to interference and has hundreds of times more stations available.

DAB is completely unsuitable as a replacement for FM, in fact it is very hard to think of a use for it at all!

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The reason why the TV switchover worked was because it was easy and relatively cheap (£10 freeview box).

The radio switchover is neither and until they bridge that gap no one will be interested.

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In fairness the digital tv also had the support of a fair few viewers, as opposed to digital radio's thumbless handful, which must have helped.

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The digital TV switchover also happened smack-bang in the "let's replace this huge power-hungry box that takes up one corner of the room, with a slick, flat-panel, up-to-date, loads-of-HMDI-connectors TV that sits nicely on the wall and has lots of extra added features like the Internet" period, too, though. Not forgetting that most of the people moving onto "digital" TV were already there - on satellite or cable.

DAB is just an expensive waste of time. 14 years and still nowhere to be seen.

I just can't justify it. It's not going to be long before I can get any portable digital TV I want on my smartphone, that also happens to do digital radio stations too (you already can, if you have that Sky app or iPlayer or equivalent). Why would I bother with a separate device? An expensive device? A battery-killing device? That I have to pay for? That I have to replace multiple FULLY FUNCTIONAL radios with?

No thanks. Hurry up and die so we can just do proper apps for this stuff.

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TRT
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Is that why bulimia and anorexia are so rife in the media celebrity world? So they can fit into those ever slimmer boxes in the living room?

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MJI
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DSO TV

Actually I went to DTTV mainly for anamorphic widescreen broadcasts, and that back then DTTV was better than analogue (mine was a bit ghosty)

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Actually, I think you'll find that your "huge power-hungry box that takes up one corner of the room" consumes much LESS power than your "slick, [power-hungry] flat-panel"

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"It's only been viewed 1,805 times on YouTube - but surely deserves a wider airing"

And god knows how many airings on the BBC, who manage to circumvent the whole not-advertising by chucking in mentions of BBC stations and events broadcast on BBC stations.

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William Rogers

Can't work out William Rogers. Spends his days complaining about DAB, but his company has been busy acquiring shares in DAB muxes including Surrey, Somerset and Cornwall. Seems to me that he's rather hedging his bets.

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Joke

Typical

UTV says "No"!

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Anonymous Coward

anti-DAB agenda

yawn, here we go again.

Wake me up when FM offers the choice that DAB offers.

FM in my area is utter shite, with programming for 16 year old girls, 65 year old fogies and nothing in between.

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Re: anti-DAB agenda

We're not so much anti-DAB here (live and let live) but rather pro-FM. It is nice to have a low cost, low power way of receiving news and music.

True, the choice on FM isn't always great, but you can currently choose to buy yourself a DAB set if you wish, or go online for tens of thousands of radio stations.

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Re: anti-DAB agenda

Choice? When my DAB radio doesn't gurgle I seem to get nothing more that pop channels with mentally deficient DJ's. Choice is not good when its all shit and I only want one decent channel and thats available on fm and tells the right time.

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Re: anti-DAB agenda

The same choice that Digital TV gives us? Looking just at BBC, we have BBC 1 and 2 (which were analogue anyway, and about 14 channels of repeats from yesterday, yesteryear, and yestercentury of programs that were on BBC 1 and 2. ITV offers pretty much the same, plus a chance to catch up with itv1+1 etc. Which is just an hour delayed repeat of itv1.

Wow, an incredible "choice" that warrented forced uptake...

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MJI
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Re: Digital TV choice

You lose you forgot

1) BBC 4

2) BBC News 24

3) CBeebies

4) CBBC

5) Film 4

6) Dave

For parents with young chidren CBeebies is excellent

For Red Dwarf there is Dave

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Boffin

in-car listening

I wonder what percentage of radio listening happens in cars...no stats to hand but I imagine it's quite high, possibly even the majority of all radio listening

I also wonder what percentage of cars are equipped with DAB-capable sets? again, no stats to hand, but I imagine it's pretty low. I know that a DAB radio came as an option when I bought my last car from new, but after reviewing the full options/costs list, I didn't take it.

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Anonymous Coward

Wide ranging legislation required

Buy a 2013 Mazda CX-5 or a host of other cars and there will be no DAB option.

Legislation needs to be enacted for a smooth transition - e.g. all new radios must contain a DAB receiver. Then, in 20 years time a forced shutdown of FM can be enacted.

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Unable to watch as at work, but...

Is that ship supposed to be captained by Thin Lizzy?

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Anonymous Coward

Ummm,,,,,,

DAB? Isn't that like ISDN for radio?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ummm,,,,,,

It's like 1200/75 in the era of ISDN.

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What about cars?

There is no sensible, practical retrofit car solution for DAB.

I agree that most local radio is crappy identikit stations.

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TRT
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Re: What about cars?

Not only that, but there's a stream of information about roadworks and accidents etc beamed out with Classic FM. My car's built-in navigation system uses that. No swap out available. And I plan to keep this car for another 10 years or so.

And there's the TA system too... brilliant. RDS is good... it isn't broken, you don't need the extra spectrum, just... madness to force a shutdown.

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Yes to FM switch off, but only if it switches off BBC radio.

Somehow it feels that every time my car radio searches for a station I end up with a BBC station. Whether it's a local radio show or a national one. The problem, for me, is more acute when you're around the Coventry area, so you end up with BBC WM, BBC Coventry, BBC Leicester, on top of your usual BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4. By the time I've found another station (usually have to switch to AM/MW for proper choice) I'm BBC'ed out. I am still, after 4 years of driving and dealing with Radio 3 and Radio 4, trying to find out how the two stations are different.

Also I'm with TRT. I only listen to the radio in the car, and I won't be changed my car's head unit just to get DAB.

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Re: Yes to FM switch off, but only if it switches off BBC radio.

Don't change the head, just get a Pure Highway. It's very simple.

There again, I am easily able to tell the difference between a classical music based station and a speech based station.

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Re: Yes to FM switch off, but only if it switches off BBC radio.

The difference is easy, R3 plays music and R4 doesn't, not that difficult to work out surely?

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