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back to article New taskforce to discuss why more people aren't turning to digital

Culture Secretary James Purnell has launched the Digital Radio Working Group to work out why more people don't want digital radio, and how to change their opinions. The group will be comprised of representatives from Ofcom, the BBC and commercial radio stations, as well as the obligatory "consumer representatives", and will be …

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so how is it better than FM when i cannot have DAB fitted in the car?

So DAB is better than what?

cannot comment on "quality" as it isnt even an option for me.

Even if it works in a car - how do you retrofit onto a radio built into the traffic computer and security system?

Seems ironic that it was big bad Gov who wanted built in radios to cut down on theft from cars - and now it means they have maybe 20 million fitted FM radios that will not be easy to swap out.

And the vehicles they are in have a typical 5 to 10 year life.

Genesis never would get done in 7 days if God had had an installed base.....

Stephen

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Anonymous Coward

I had it for 6 months over in the states...

1) Too expensive.

2) shitty selection

3) Too much Howard Stern

4) Shitty quality

5) Basically boring.

6) Too many commercials for a bleeding subscription service.

I'm going to stick with the AM/FM because it's basically free...

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Coat

Internet radio

I have a couple of WIFI internet radios at home, the sound quality seems better than DAB, there is no interference, and they can even stream MP3 tracks from my media server.

I agree that DAB car radios are rare, but the signal is far more "fussy" than FM.

Maybe 3G internet radios are the future! <ducks>

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jc
Alert

So expensive?

I can see you can get a Technika DAB-107 DAB Clock Radio from Tesco's with a nice big blue segmented display for £29.97

http://direct.tesco.com/q/R.202-3878.aspx

or MATSUI MATCR515D CR515D DAB Clock Radio for 25 quid at Dixons

- the £60 minimum price was a problem a year ago

-jc

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New DAB+ codec

In addition to the poor bit-rates and expensive sets, there is also the rather big risk that a new codec will be rolled out in a couple of years and that £90 DAB radio will turn into a useless paper-weight/brick overnight. (I just spotted that someone else has pointed this out but I'll say it again).

The government is always keen to suggest that a spectrum sell-off benefits the tax-payer when in fact it is the tax-payer (as a consumer) that always pays in the end.

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A relic from past

Here in north DAB was tried and found to be a failure, long ago:

http://www.yle.fi/fbc/press_abandondab.shtml

And in comparison, YLE chose to use CD-quality stream, not horrendous 96kbps mpeg2. In that time they didn't even have real competitors, like broadband and MP3/AAC as they do now. Trying to do the same thing now is a sure failure, DAB is a relic from past and as such, dead, like ISDN.

Special hardware alone will kill it, while you _could_ broadcast MP3/AAC stream and use any existing device for playing it. That's too simple for BBC, is it?

I could record a couple of days worth any net radio to a stick and use it my car for free, why on earth would I buy a DAB-receiver in my car?

If you are a kind of people to buy DAB, you already have broadband and having both is kind of moot, having two separate hardwares for just moving bits around isn't justified.

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Pirate

They could make us switch

They could simply outlaw analogue broadcasting,

or

switch it off, just like analogue TV is being switched off.

Then we'd have to listen even - if it is crap music produced by their crappy recording industry pals, or smug tw*ts talking about what might be happening.

Alf

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Radio? Who cares...

I'm so busy listening to my own local music sources to care about broadcast sources, be they music, news, or other programming.

Besides, I already own three zillion analog radios I don't use. :-)

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The difference...

The difference in quality is also down to interference. With interference on an FM radio station you can still make out what is being said / what is being played and follow it. With digital you just lose the damn signal entirely.

Of course, you get the same problem with the crap that is digital TV as well.

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The government understands technology ...

And 'digital' always means better.

Heck, if you sit a Sony Bravia LCD telly next to a Sony WEGA CRT telly on the same RGB feed, the LCD picture is _miles_ better.

NOT.

And don't even _try_ to watch Olympic water sports on digital TV, the coding can't cope with all that shimmery stuff.

Engineers strove for years to optimise picture quality, and now it's all being thrown away for the sake of more macroblocky channels for the masses.

Same applies to DAB.

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All of the above

Has anyone made a point that is about DAB, that is a good point?

Maybe their ''think tank'' should read these comments and they might see where they went wrong.

Digital audio (cd) digital video (dvd,tv) and now digital radio, are all carrying an analog signal, after crushing it, no one who is a purist likes that.

I dont mind it for run of the mill stuf,but now and again I want a bit of quality in my life, I cant wait for ''the vinyl revival''

Dab radio sounds utter shite, mp3 sounds terrible, and now FM has gone 'tinny' as well as its shuffled round the country in a digital form.

Even terrestrial analog tv is from a digitally crushed source.

They stole my analog and I want it back!

@teaching in schools, whisker radios, yes I built one too from the ladybird book of making a transistor radio, great fun it was, but too complicated for our 6th formers of today.....

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Unhappy

Price

@jc - Maybe so but I just bought a standard AM/FM clock radio from Tesco for 3 quid.

Have tried DAB here but didn't get anything. Also, the local station I listen to doesn't even transmit on DAB.

I shall stick with my Freeview box outputting through my stereo if I must listen to the channels on the radio (rarely).

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Paris Hilton

I'm a bit confused...

Being that I'm from the other side of the pond, if it's public radio:

1. Why is a royalty being paid for that mp3/aac codec. Wouldn't it make sense to require an open-source codec for uniform usage?

2. The government is increasing power usage for encoding/decoding beyond what current radios use. Seems like the wrong way to go about it. Of course, we can't get our own car manufacturers to increase their fuel efficiency and we pay quite a bit less for our petrol at the pump.

3. We have digital t.v./radio broadcast in the states, but I can't pick those stations up in my apt. (and I'm using a booster). Glad I can ride this out to 2009 when digital t.v. cuts in.

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I want to work in government

All you do is sidle up to your friendly minister and mention how you are a bit short of work and would they mind awfully setting up a pointless taskforce/quango/comitee for you to sit on.

Surely the first few months will be used explaining what DAB is to the fossils who make up the 'taskforce'.

I only listen to radio at work and in the usual miserly fashion adopted by bosses worldwide, we only have a cheap analogue radio.This is good as we are in a valley and can only receive radio 1 or the local station and by common agreement we plump for radio 1. Unfortunately this may change. I work for merecedes and my boss has a new c-class company car which has a DAB radio. He has discovered Rock FM or some such name (Imagine K-DST from San Andreas) and we may soon be deluged with old folks rock. (Don't get me wrong, I love bands who know how to play their own instruments but they shouldn't be allowed to play songs when stoned as they forget when to stop. 'The End' by The Doors has to be the most ironically named song in history, 'Without End' maybe). Choices are only a good thing if you are the person who can make them.

Perhaps a new petition should be added to .gov 'Ban DAB'

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Unhappy

DAB or Freeview no signal here :(

no point in telling us how good both these systems are if we barely get the 4 TV channels here in Skelmorlie and a few hissing FM stations. while I drive my 6 mile journey to work my radio1 signal comes and goes a few times out -of- sync also because it is switching transmitters .The signal is so cr@p !! I resent paying a licence for such a service . All tuners and antennae are correctly calibrated and set adequately.

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So where's the 'save the planet' sense in scrapping millions of radios?

It just shows that our 'government' is as non-planet friendly as any business that's only out to get MONEY.

Scrap millions of analogue radios and TV's just for a quick money grab on radio frequencies, so they can be resold on ebay.

I don't know what use the spectrum will be sold for, but I bet advertising yet more unnecessary items, that have an ever shorter life and come in ever bigger packaging has something to do with it.

GREEN, a government? Pull the other one. Gimme the MONEY, voters!

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Boffin

There is an alternative already

The only place I regularly listen to the radio is the car. As lots of people here have said, there are no DAB Car radios. Quality is not relevant in a car. I tend to concentrate on driving. Coverage is more important and that seems to be wanting...

At other times, I listen to podcasts. There is excellent quality, enormous choice and I don't have to listen to radio stations that are either striving to keep politicians of all types happy or following the path laid out for them by Rupert Murdoch. I am sure there are pocasts out there that do these. I don't subscribe to them.

If DAB catches up with podcasts, I might be interested but it has to compete on, cost (podcasts are free), variety, sound quality, diversity, freedom from political and big company interference and programme quality. That is a big list and I think we have a long wait.

If my car radio stops working, I will just connect up my iPod and listen to that. I am not going to spend ANY money on a vastly inferior alternative.

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Analog works

Digital radio sucks. Unreliable, requires so many points of failure to be overcome and with the compression levels employed turns listening pleasure into listening hell!!!

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DAB?

DAB will experience slow take up because if like me you have at the last count 4 or 5 radios, (kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, car) which are perfectly fine for listening to BBC4, BBC1, Radio 5 live, local radio then why would I go and spend a fortune on replacing these with something of questionable quality? By the way I cannot replace the car radio its built into the dashboard.

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Unhappy

Quality & Price

I've had a DAB at home for over a year. I can testify to the statements above about generally poor quality:

BBC stations *in general* are OK, but are often in Mono...

Independent stations (such as XFM) are only listenable about half the time, the other half suffers horrible digital breakup and everything sounding like it is being played through a Dalek.

... and I live in an area that the BBC says I am "very likely [to] have high quality coverage"

In contrast my FM radio in my car the reception is flawless.

My message to the select committee - "I don't care about having 300 channels, just improve the quality!"

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Typo Correction

It's just a small slipup ElReg, it's "Kultuur" Secretary James Purnell. The nice man from the Daily Mail has advised me not to go into any further detail.

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Poor sound quality & reception

I bought a Pure Digital hi-fi separate for a hundred quid recently (B-grade, they don't make them anymore.) It is a pain to get decent reception. You have to stick the aerial wire to the wall in a sideways-on T shape - it looks very weird. The FM wire can just be slung anywhere and it works fine. Bear in mind I live in London so God knows what it is like out in the sticks.

The main reason I got it was to listen to Radio 3, which is the only station broadcast at 192 kbps. Except the BBC have to share the bandwidth across all their stations. So if Five Live Sports Extra or Radio 4 LW is on, they downgrade other stations. Sometimes Radio 4 goes down to 64kbs mono!

That said you do get useful info scrolling on the screen. But that seems to be on FM too, via RDS.

I am so relieved that the unit has FM on it too.

What a waste of time!

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Tech for the sake of tech

Unless "advances" in technology fix some universally acknowledged problem, nobody will care.

HD Radio isn't a fix to anything but the government's problem that it needs more frequencies to sell and more bandwidth to control.

So it's a government problem and the government expects the consumer to bail it out -- again.

George Orwell never explained what was behind Big Brother's moustache. Is it a smile? Is it a frown? In this case, it's HD-Radio.

Government needs to do what government does best: force the worst possible choice down the throats of the greatest number of people and then tell them they are better off. Then raise taxes.

See. I could have been an MP. I suggest a position over at the Ministry of Truth.

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

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Replacing radios

A quick check reveals that we have 8 FM radios in our house, plus two in our cars. Not much motivation to replace them all with DAB radios that may not get reception, will sound worse if they do, and will have far shorter battery life.

The only reason they have 20% of the market is that old-fashioned radios last almost forever, and people rarely shop for new ones. I doubt that DAB radios represent more than about 1% of the total number in use!

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DAB=

Degenerate Audio Billhooks

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Unhappy

I like DAB - somewhat

I agree with comments that:

* there are too many stations fighting for too little bandwidth.

* there's a price premium

I have a Pure pocketdab 2000, whose only downside is that the max SD card it can take is 2GB, so although it also makes a good mp3 player it is limited. If it were DAB only, it'd be 60% useless.

The reason why I like DAB somewhat is that I listen to ClassicFM a lot, and the sound quality is respectable; where I work computer inerference drowns out any FM, but DAB seems to cope better. I also like being able to record digitally off air - but, there are some MP3 players with built-in off-air recording?

Why are there still no decent DAB + MP3 large hard drive players? I did find one with 8GB of flash and a card slot. Perhaps because DAB has not been a big success round the world so there's quite a small market,

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DAB Obsolete already?

I read that the rest of the world was moving to a different (and superior) technology which would bring their hardware prices down, capturing the world market and forcing out everything else much as the useless IBMPC did.

Apart from that, my car radio which is where I do all my listening does not even have cassette capabilities let alone CD, and yes it still works and does exactly the job I require.

As I have mentioned in the past I do not recollect in any manifesto that my viewing or listening was to be screwed if I voted for a particular party. Still now they've broadcast my details I have no doubt someone else will be doing my future electronic voting for me.

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Utter Bob

DAB reception is patchy. DAB sound quality is rubbish. DAB is much more expensive.

Also, there's graceful degradation with analog. I can watch telly with snow in the picture or listen to (talk) radio with interference. Digital telly/radio just turns into stuttering and squeaks when there's too much noise.

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W

3 BBC stations (+ 2 AM talk stations)

Dear Mr "DAB radio sales taskforce",

If (and it's a big "if")...

... the shoddy DAB broadcast quality is a mere technicality that could be overcome and that DAB could broadcast everything at the wholly "good enough" FM standard...

...the signal becomes weak the sound wouldn't crumble into white noise and the audio were to remain vaguely listenable...

...manufacturers could install it into every car by default...

...the price of the hardware was at least half of what it is now...

...the design of the hardware could be vastly improved to develop beyond "retro", "woody", or "50s space-age" (smiles go to the Marshall Amp one though)...

...and the energy consumption of hardware could be reduced to match that of FM...

...*if* they could resolve those 6 *technical* issues, DAB is still left with *quality* issue.

It has the megre USP of having only 3 niche BBC stations (+ 2 AM talk stations) on offer. That's it: 6music/1Xtra/BBC7 - stations with a combined listening share of less than 1% according to RAJAR figures.

I'll generously add points for 5Live/TalkSport, as they're on AM and a very very few FM radios don't receive AM but we're still only around the 5% mark. Apart from that, BBC R1-R4 are on FM, so no points there. Remarkably the dire commercial chuff has perfectly adequate equivalents on FM and the are too stations yet people still listen, so i'll add another 5% to listener figures.

But those 3(+2) stations are all as "free" side offerings on on TV (Freeview/Virgin/Sky). And the internet.

And pausing and rewinding live radio iof very little use. Those are bloody minded enough to record DAB will use a DVB-T USB stick with their PC (and then pass out due to acronym-itis).

For those that want real choice beyond FM, Wi-Fi internet radios are an ever more sensible option for wireless households and will render DAB in the home a nonsense. Unfortunately that doesn't help revenue generation by way of the sale of radio spectrum though, does it?

Yet with all of the above being blindingly obvious, the government is still wondering why sales figures for radios are meagre when DAB only stations have only attracted a 10% or so market share thus far and a DAB radio is only of any use in a bedroom without digital TV or a kitchen.

All of the above is blindingly obvious and there's still the need for a taskforce?

Yours in disbelief,

W - a member of the small "6music in the bedroom" demographic.

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W

enquiries@culture.gov.uk

Above letter sent to James Purnell at "enquiries@culture.gov.uk" with the following;

PS: You'll also be wanting to read the comments to the recent news story carried on TheRegister.co.uk (at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/23/dab_working_group/) and the Channel 4 News Forum (at http://community.channel4.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/503603557/m/6530046049) before going any further with the Digital Radio Working Group.

PPS: Where, and to whom, do I send my consulatation fee invoice?

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@ Nick Ryan

The difference is also down to interference.

With interference on an FM radio station you can figure out what is causing the interference and do something about it. With digital you just lose the damn signal entirely and are left clueless unless you have thousands of pounds of RF analysis kit.

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Unhappy

Nothing to do with the excessive costs then?

My Sony FM portable, £12

2 AA batteries, last most of a year £2

Dab radio £68

6 C batteries last 32 hours, £9

Nothing to with inflated costs of the equipment then?

It's just a bunch of diodes and transistors, the hardware isn't worth the premium cost.

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