back to article DON'T PANIC: No FM Death Date next month, minister confirms

Culture and Comms Minister Ed Vaizey told Parliament last night he won't announce an expiry date next month for a popular technology that everyone uses and loves: FM radio. Vaizey will, however, make a much-anticipated strategy statement, while the larger radio stations had hoped he'd set a firm date for when broadcasters shift …

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50% of what?

There will be no switchover until the majority of listening is digital

with the number of adults with access to a DAB digital radio up 10%

It sounds suspiciously like there's an assumption that when the number of adults with access to a DAB radio exceeds 50% that will mean that the former condition has been met. This is emphatically not the case.

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Re: 50% of what?

dont worry it will take ages to get to 50% of all listeners.

10 + 10% is still only 11 people with a DAB set

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FAIL

Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

..when DAB coverage and signal quality matches or exceeds FM for the vast majority of the country, and the size and cost of the receivers come down to more realistic sizes and levels, then, maybe, you might interest me in getting one of those things.

But not until then.

You have a shedload of work to do yet, don't you?

The answer to that, by the way, is "Yes".

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Re: Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

"You have a shedload of work to do yet, don't you?"

No, he doesn't. There is no sensible question to which the answer is "DAB", except for the question "Which crummy technology do people not want, and should be put out of its misery soon?"

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Happy

Re: Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

>There is no sensible question to which the answer is "DAB"

Ofcom: We need some more spectrum for M2M and Wifi, plus some extra for 5G wouldn't go a miss any ideas where we might find some under utilised spectrum who's current user's won't complain?

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Unhappy

Re: Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

"..when DAB coverage and signal quality matches or exceeds FM for the vast majority of the country, and the size and cost of the receivers come down to more realistic sizes and levels, then, maybe, you might interest me in getting one of those things."

I think you've missed the one on battery life.

AFAIK DAB eats batteries.

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Re: Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

Indeed. I've got two personal DABs and two little portables, and I don't think any of them can last 10 hours on a set of batteries. I've got an Hitatchi Superwoofer (remember them?) - it's a big, loud bastard with stereo, lots of speakers, lights and everything, yet it has had the same set of batteries in since I don't know when (at least 3 years now).

DAB is *NOT* an acceptable replacement for FM, unlike (arguable) DVB for Analogue PAL. And I speak as someone with that many DAB radios. They need to come up with and push something else before people are forced to move.

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Re: Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

DAB-II

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Re: Tell you what. Mr. Vaizey...

Yes there is - DAB is ideal for people willing to sacrifice quality, usability and signal availability for lots of channels and who don't have access to the internet!

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SJG

Radio Silence in Cars ?

... and what about in a car. Many manufacturers (even including BMW) still sell cars with only FM. Adding DAB at home is fairly easy - buy a set and plug it in. With the integrated radios in most cars this just isn't feasible.

There's even a safety aspect of this - moving from the integrated radios and steering wheel controls to a new DAB radio fixed somewhere under the dashboard is clearly a real backwards step.

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

"Adding DAB at home is fairly easy - buy a set and plug it in."

Except that I don't fucking want to. DAB offers me nothing that FM can't do, in fact the quality of FM is usually better than DAB, and I've already got FM receivers.

The sooner knob end politicians stop trying to tell me what I want the better, and at least Ed Vaizey has had the sense to realise that DAB is a solution looking for a problem. If he really wants to separate himself from the herd of incompetents and thieves at Westminster, then he could simply admit that DAB isn't wanted by the majority and doesn't solve any problems. And then he could develop a close down strategy for DAB, instead of prolonging its zombie existence.

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

"Many manufacturers (even including BMW) still sell cars with only FM."

My BMW has a DAB/FM receiver!!!

However, because of the crappy reception in and around my area, and the consequent frequent drop-outs, I have the thing switched to FM most of the time. The sound quality on FM sounds better to my ears than that delivered by DAB.

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

"Except that I don't fucking want to. DAB offers me nothing that FM can't do, in fact the quality of FM is usually better than DAB, and I've already got FM receivers."

The only FM receiver I have in the house is a bedside clock radio. Everything else streams across the 'net.

I doubt my setup is unusual.

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FAIL

Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

Can you let me know the FM frequency of 6Music and 4extra then please?

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

SJG is correct - when I was looking at new head units with iPod thingies and reversible badger interfaces, not much more than a year ago, DAB units still commanded a hefty premium over FM units.

And that's without the whole SCRUNCHSQUEEL of DAB breaking up causing me to have an apoplectic fit in the car, as opposed to FMs fairly stateful decay to static.

Fuck DAB till it has a genuine 95% saturation rate. Until it gets that far, it's useless.

Steven R

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

Surely the point is that there is nothing on FM worth listening to in the first place? Well, not in Arstrayia anyway. Maybe FM airspace is not such a bogan (read: chav) wonderland in old blighty? Imagine that!

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

Are you sure your TV isn't a DAB radio? The stats on digital radio sales from Downunder include TVs, new cars and a trivially small number of portable digital radios so in other words most buyers of digital radios don't know they have one and most will never ever use the radio function.

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

"so in other words most buyers of digital radios don't know they have one"

I don't think so. The Radio function built into Digital TV sets here pick up no more than a handful of stations. All of them some flavour of either SBS or the ABC. Tuning them in is part of the TV tuning setup, it is in no way separate. I suspect they're a subset of the digital TV standard that just caters for just audio.

I have a real DAB+/FM radio reciever, and it has many, many more stations, 61 at last count in Sydney (metro area).

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

No, TVs are usually DVB Audio, a very different technology.

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

That will be because the sound quality of FM IS better than DAB. Most of the DAB stations transmit as cr**py sub 200bps digital, radio 5 live is sometime 64bps and it sure sounds like it too.

I have a DAB radio alarm clock and it is forever losing the signal, I wish it had an FM option...

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

I did in fact mean 200kbps and 64kbps, 64 bps would be really really dire

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Re: radio 5 live

Well, R5L's only analogue broadcasting is through AM (693 and 909 kHz). I remember having to listen to that in the car, and it was frequently dire in audio quality, with fading and other interference.

A 64 kbps DAB stream is at least as good as that.

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Pirate

Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

DAB is great for pirac- I mean recording for later listening, as long as you can get a good enough signal. It's a lot easier than setting your PC up to do it and you get more opportunities than FM. For general listening, though, you can't beat an FM radio with a manual tuner!

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

Do you not have any BBC rebroadcasts down-under? I'd have thought that that was the perfect thing for the nation closest in tastes to its motherland ;) .

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

Fuck DAB till it has a genuine 95% saturation rate. Until it gets that far, it's useless

And even if it does get that far, it'll still be useless. I'll just have to stop listening to radio, and spend a bit more time compiling my own zero-compresion music collections.

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

ArseTrailer has some wonderful FM stations. Where else can you choose between 'Classic' Rock (ie Hotel California, baker Street, My Baby Is The Centrefold, rewind, repeat) and 20 stations playing exactly the same Top 40 songs interspersed with DJs who seem to have all been cloned from the same moron?

But we do have 2 (count em) classical/jazz stations and ABC News too, and none of them available on DAB without putting your radio on an outside wall and wiring it to the Dish

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

"64 bps would be really really dire"

Oh I don't know - 64bps might make 2Day FM sound a little less dreary

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Re: Radio Silence in Cars ?

"Do you not have any BBC rebroadcasts down-under? I'd have thought that that was the perfect thing for the nation closest in tastes to its motherland ;) "

Unfortunately, the only BBC rebroadcasting is the occasional programme on ABC News, and a passthrough World Service stream when 2RPH (Blind Reader Service station) is off the air.

Foxtel gives us BBC World News Radio on the ole telly, but that's it.

The saddest thing is that the vast majority of Australians seem to identify not with the Old Dart (UK), but with all things merkin. We appear to have more apologists for merka here than merka has itself. Case in point recently was the lead story on Channel 9 News, which was video of someone parking his car badly in some anonymous American town, I think because it came with 'spectacular video', as the presenter called it. OK, so he smashed a dozen cars and ended up with two wheels hanging out over a 30 metre drop, but News Value?

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Coat

Well now

I wonder which of the Tory party backers has the vacant FM bands in their sights ? I'm sure they'll get them for a snip just like they captured The Post Office on the cheap.

Andrew, can we have a proper thief icon please ?

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Re: Well now

"I wonder which of the Tory party backers has the vacant FM bands in their sights "

AFAIK it's cross-party

(I think it's madness)

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Re: Well now

"(I think it's madness)"

Its even madder than people think - the FM band is only 20 Mhz wide - ie sod all use for any serious digital services other than audio. So what exactly they're planning on doing with it is anyones guess. The phone/internet companies will hardly be lining up to buy it.

It seems to me the only reason for the push to DAB is that its digital and therefor the arts degree morons in charge think that anything digital is automatically better than anything analogue regardless of evidence to the contrary and they must be seen to be doing something wrt broadcasting, DAB is something , so lets do it.

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Re: Well now

hmmm

88-108Mhz DAB+?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well now

It wasn't the Tories that started this lunacy - Labour were pushing for it from around 2005. Still don't let that stop you being a Guardianista moron mmm?

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Unhappy

Re: Well now

"It seems to me the only reason for the push to DAB is that its digital and therefor the arts degree morons in charge think that anything digital is automatically better"

That's probably the reason given to the politicians so they can sound "informed" when talking to the public but in the background it's all about compressing the FM stations in a few few digital MUXes and selling off the bandwidth for more mobiles phones and/or wifi.

Also, as already demonstrated by digital TV and existing DAB, the quality delivered to the end user is often lower thanks to decreasing bit rates to squeeze more channels into the same space. When sat. and cable were switching to digital they "sold" it to us on the promise of "crystal clear pictures and HiFi sound". Yeah, it was. For a while. Now we see TV channels with so little bandwidth that at time you can't tell the difference between grass and coloured tarmac.

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Oh dear...

Testing began on DAB in 1990 with the service going public in 1995. Two years before the Labour government, who hadn't been in power since 1979. Don't let the facts get in the way of your right-wing foaming at the mouth moment.

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Re: Well now

I think you'll find the real push for the FM switchoff is from all those companies who bought into diestamped commercial broadcasting a few years ago, who now have to maintain both FM and digital retransmission facilities. Obviously it would be cheaper to dump one and since DAB is the cheaper, they'd like to close down FM.

Well that, and the fact that any cheap arse company running prerecorded Lowest Common Denominator Top 40 ad stations is naturally going to have audiophile sound quality top on his list of priorities of course.

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DAB

is shit

there fixed that for you

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Sounds like a commitment

Do do nothing!

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Build It And It Will Come

First, can we have a DAB signal here? I would like to try this new technology that everyone is talking of.

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Re: Build It And It Will Come

Don't bother.

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Anonymous Coward

DAB....

is shit, always has been shit and will remain shit until the day it gets taken off air.

I have a pretty high-end FM tuner (Magnum Dynalab FT-101) with a nice little beam pointing at the Sutton Coldfield transmitter and given a decent non-compressed-to-hell signal, it sounds pretty good. Am I going to get compensated if FM is switched off for loss of service? Am I bollocks.

I was all for the move to digital telly, but scrapping FM because the various parties want everything digital is as has been mentioned, not what people want. Stop meddling with peoples lives and do something useful.

If they want to get the RF-spectrum play-kit out, then they should start by sorting out the abortion that electromagnetic compatibility has become. Get shot of the Ofcom navel-gazing luvvies and appoint a real regulator with boots to stomp on the heads of corrupt Eurotwats who are pushing through standards to allow the wholesale junking of HF/VHF and UHF spectrum for us.

With PLT, g.fast, badly designed LED lights and crappy wall-wart PSU's that are being allowed to come to market, I'll be surprised if in 10 years we will be able to receive any radio stations at home at all.

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Pint

They should join forces with...

... the ipv6 folks. They can't organise a switchover either.

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Pint

Used to listen to Radio 2 in the office with DAB

Just a general radio on there, but the stupid bubbling mud noises and the cutting out led me to turn the ruddy thing to FM.

Now it works perfectly, all the time. A major town, not a suburb or village.

DAB can be crammed up the arse of the people who are pushing this fæces into our faces.

(Yes, my preference would also be Radio 4, dear reader, but it is not mine for the setting. I listen to Radio 4 in the car).

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Facepalm

If they time it right

They could kill FM and DAB at the same time!

There is a new standard for mains networking up for ratification that would allow massively increased power and subsequent interference to the radio spectrum, ADSL/VDSL etc.

The BBC already found the current low level devices can take down DAB.

(TL:DR disclaimer - this is more than 140 characters, has some big words and very few pictures.)

http://www.cq-cq.eu/DJ5IL_rt004e.pdf

I almost wish it did have some pretty graphs as we need more people who don't know a decibel from a Tinkerbell to understand the radio spectrum is a finite resource and related to the sound spectrum, its like Europe saying they are going to allow the constant sound of chain saws around your house because "nobody listens to bird song speech or natural sounds any more!". In some ways I look forward to the day they try turn off FM IF we can get people to understand what is killing DAB.

Dear Mr Europe, the radio spectrum is not yours to covertly sell off to your mates.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If they time it right

And exactly how am I going to listen to radi ostations while on the move? You know in places where there is no 2G signal let alone 3G, 4G or whatever.

also, I'm going not going to PAY per bit to receive stuff that is BROADCAST to everyone over the ether.

Streaming is all well and good but to say that it can replace BROADCAST services is a load of smellt dog shite.

Until there is a sensible free to receive BRODCAST alternative to FM/LW/MW/DAB radio then leave the fuck alone.

Why to posters here really not understand the benefits of BROADCAST as opposed to pointcast solutions?

Yours,

An ex Mullard Radio Engineer so I'm biased.

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Black Helicopters

Re: If they time it right

My first post obviously was not well written (no change there then) I'm definitely not arguing for streaming radio, the complete opposite in fact. Once everything we do is monitored and analysed to death the ability to listen to the views of some distant radio station or a varied range of broadcast stations is crucial to keeping any sense of world connection and an agile mind.

In a time of crisis (the promised power cuts say) lets see who can set up a simple few-component DAB station to keep the local people informed. Not to mention false flags attacks can only succeed if the media is well controlled. Once the net is down we will be blind, if FM and broadcast go – no streaming no clue.

I would like to see something big enough happen to radio that the average person wakes up to the death of the broadcast world and the fact that the entire radio spectrum is being turned over to a few corporate interests and short term profit. We are being blinded.

If they tried to turn off FM, all those who "put off trying digital" realise it doesn't work then we get into a proper conversation, I'm saying "go on try killing FM right now, see what level of shit hits the fan". Delay quietly hides the sell off of the radio spectrum.

I'm a radio enthusiast or at least was, most of the spectrum is now hidden under mains networking or other hash and the younger generation just don't see that as a problem.

While the net is up its hard to value broadcast and they just can't concieve a world without a working internet.

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Paris Hilton

Maybe the Minister is being cajoled into making a decision that does not appear in his personal agenda?

If so, where is the urge for DABcoming from?

Who is bigging up a non-issue into something important?

(My taken is that it probably is the same people who prefer to broadcast minority issue sports such as cricket or golf over major interest sports such as IoM. Tsk! Middle class morality again and in charge of treasury funds? Never? Sometimes I wonder if all of those dead soles dying in service in 2 world wars, civilians and other wars included are turning in their graves at the "freedoms" that so exactingly robbed them violently of life)

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Unhappy

BTW am I right in thinking UK DAB <> Europe DAB?

Something about the encoding?

I think I can sum up the position of a lot of El Reg commentards as

IP digital "radio." YES.

DAB digital radio NO.

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Re: BTW am I right in thinking UK DAB <> Europe DAB?

Yes, the primeval DAB standard used in the UK is not compatible with DAB+ as used everywhere else. So, there's a lie by implication: you might reasonably think that DAB+ is a superset of the original DAB standard, just like Stereo FM is a superset of the original Mono FM, but it isn't. A mono FM receiver works perfectly when fed a Stereo FM signal, but a DAB radio can't deal with a DAB+ signal at all, so guess how well your shiny new in-car DAB radio is going to work on t'other side of the Channel.

I have a high-end FM receiver that I'm more than happy with (Quad FM3), or would be if the signal hadn't become noisy over the last year or two: it would be quite nice if Arquiva actually maintained the transmitters they're paid to maintain.

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Re: BTW am I right in thinking UK DAB <> Europe DAB?

Some UK DAB sets can be upgraded to DAB+, but here is little point unless your taking the radio abroad. That upgrade isn't free, though, because royalties have to be paid on the AAC codec DAB+ uses.

Apparently there is a way of using an Australian proxy server to upgrade Pure DAB sets without paying a fee, but I haven't done it myself.

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