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back to article Dig deep! Radio asks taxpayers for blank cheque

Timing is everything, comics say. So it is in politics, too. With the UK flat broke after Labour's nine-year drunken spending splurge, the taxpayer is now being asked to pay for lots of new radio masts, and associated infrastructure. The anointed successor to analog radio doesn't have anything like the infrastructure required …

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Pint

Alternatives

We need a Sirius/XM Europe and complimentary to that, DRM/DRM+ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Radio_Mondiale) to allow us to interleave digital radio on the current frequency bands, closedown DAB, resell the spectrum, get drunk and forget it ever happened.

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It's not being used because it's not designed to be used.

DAB does nothing that FM doesn't, there's no fancy new features or other selling points -- because it's a shit system designed to do nothing more than make OFCOM money.

DAB isn't being adopted because it was designed to shove as many channels into as thin a slot in the spectrum as possible -- so that OFCOM can sell more spectrum and make more of a profit.

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The problem with...

During most peoples life times it has been a good idea to upgrade their analogue equipment once. When most things moved from AM to FM. The problem with any digital technology is that it is likely to be obsolete before you've ever managed to get home from the shop. Unless someone finds a way to keep broadcasting last weeks technology while also broadcasting this weeks flavour they are constantly going to be having this battle.

DAB is suffering from being an early technology. But will punters accept throwing away their new DAB kit to buy DAB+ today? Probably not going to be a popular move. Tomorrow someone will come up with a better CODEC and we'll have proponents of DAB++, given a few weeks DAB+++ will be posited as the answer to everything... but for how long?

Do we want to live in a throw away society?

Manufactures would obviously love us too, but...

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Grenade

Freeview

What's wrong with the radio stations being broadcast as part of the Freeview service?

Since Freeview is being rolled out nationally won't it's coverage eventually be as good as FM radio (but not the quality, obviously).

And if we have a system that is being already being paid for why do we need to pay for another one that does essentially the same?

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Unhappy

Radio on Freeview - not in Scotland

Ah, you've not heard about Scotland then?

It was decided a few months ago to remove all the BBC radio channels from Freeview in Scotland and give the bandwidth to the single BBC Alba tv channel.....

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What's wrong with Freeview?

Well, if you live in Scotland you will soon lose radio on Freeview to make way for BBC Alba

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Re: What's wrong with the radio stations being broadcast as part of the Freeview service?

> What's wrong with the radio stations being broadcast as part of the Freeview service?

My recollection is that DVB-T ("Freeview") won't work well in a moving vehicle due to doppler shift and other effects. In contrast, DAB was designed with moving-vehicle reception as a main use-case. There is a DVB variant, DVB-H, that is designed for mobile reception, but deploying that would probably be no cheaper than DAB.

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WTF?

The comments on Freeview in Scotland are close - but not quite accurate enough

In Scotland, BBC ALBA (a TV channel) will be broadcast during its normal television broadcast hours (not all day) where, at the moment, BBC Radio Scotland is being broadcast - to very few listeners.

BBC Radio Scotland will still be available on FM, AM, DAB and online - the four other means already preferred by the overwhelming majority of listeners.

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Vic
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Not quite...

> DVB-T ("Freeview") won't work well in a moving vehicle due to doppler shift and other effects.

Doppler shift won't worry it.

The difficulty you have is that you need a signal. This means getting yourself a reasonably-sized TV aerial, and pointing it at the transmitter (since they are directional).

That doesn't work too well on a car...

Vic.

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FAIL

Raising money

Couldn't Doesn't Always Broadcast(DAB) just get a business loan from one of our

successfully bonused-to-the-gunwhales banks?

No? Oh well, cap in hand to the tax-payer then...

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Anonymous Coward

What do we have here then?

So DAB needs now unstated but indubitably large sums ("gotta eat too, guv" sayeth all the top brass in the industry), of course from the taxpayer because it can't be funded from their business models, to effectively destroy prior investments in the technology it replaces without actually being better.

DAB, even DAB+, is already technically outdated and doesn't really bring much more over "analogue" FM. Rolling it out, in fact, would be entirely stupid from an operational point of view because it needs upgrading, badly, but cannot be upgraded gracefully after deployment. Frankly, I don't care that it works for no matter how many people. It just doesn't bring enough extra to actually switch over. That makes it a solution in search of a problem. As evidenced by the movable goalposts.

Quite honestly, for the government to spend anything at all on DAB or even DAB+ would be plain irresponsible. Even if there was an actually better digital audio broadcasting technology there still would be nary a business case. A national free, even if comparatively low bandwidth*, mobile data internetwork would be more cost effective and quite probably easier to upgrade over time, as well as more versatile. But then some pundit or bigwig will cry piracy again. How depressing**.

* Enough for, say, smooth delivery of a 128kbit mp3 stream for every end station.

** Obligatory cross-referencing pun intended, yes.

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FAIL

Fuck DAB, use Satellite radio if anything

This is a place where the 'mericans got it right, they use satellite radio. You pay if you want to get all the good channels (debate amongst yourselves!!!) but Analogue will never die. Now if the EU mandated it, the French would ignore it, the Germans would deliver DAB+++ and the UK would sit and mumble.

But still with MPEG 1 codecs and 6db losses/5-10 miles given our subsoil strata in Blighty, it'd not work!

But we'll get fucked again for more money. Epic Fail inbound!

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+1

Yup, every car has satnav these days, so satellite radio is definitely the most sensible automotive solution. DAB is very 1980s.

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Headmaster

Tsk

That would be 'merkins'.

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Happy

Re: Tsk

>That would be 'merkins'.

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

:-)

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Headmaster

Re: Re: Tsk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkin_(disambiguation)

Sometimes words have multiple meanings. The fact that a slang term for an American is also the name of a pubic wig is sometimes, not always, apt.

The main difference is you are unlikely to be shot by a pubic wig.

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Drop It

The public has spoken, they don't want DAB, it's old, expensive and doesn't work properly!

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FAIL

Ummmmmm...

Reading through these posts I have a strange sense of deja vu.

ISDN anyone?

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FAIL

Being a 'merkin...

...I'm thinking more along the lines of our 5 different versions of AM Stereo, and, going further back, SQ, QS, and CD-4 4 channel quadraphonic hi-fi's.

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AC@16:13

ISDN#

Good one. I'd forgotten that.

That said it was a pretty clever solution (No peak bandwidth but *solid* all the time).

Could the internet have exploded at a rock solid 155kbs? We'll never know.

ISDN's failures would seem more a regulation and national telco's failure rather than a technology fail. DAB looks to have *all* 3.

I still like the VHS/Betamax analogy because it's more consumer based and media consumption (what people *could* view and what they *wanted* to view) was a pretty big part of the success and fail balances.

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Anonymous Coward

mixed opinion on that, actually

You might see ISDN as a typical telco take on this newfangled data thing. But it does have upsides, if only people understood what they were dealing with.

Over here (and that's very much not BT) a single BRI costs just a bit over a single POTS line and can handle up to two voice channels simultaneously and up to eight numbers assigned to it for a small surcharge (the first four don't cost extra). That's just peachy for, say, a bunch of otherwise unrelated housemates, or a small office, or something. Using it is actually cheaper than two POTS lines nevermind one for each tenant. And it's useful as a fall-back data line. Or as a dial-on-demand setup before the advent of xDSL. Or an easy way to give the fax, the garden shed, or say the home office a different number. Maybe get a separate statement for each number, simplifying billing for the customer. That sort of thing.

But as a telco, it's not the extra capabilities you're selling it for. You don't even sell it as "two lines". It simplifies your own infrastructure as it plugs pretty directly into the switch. And with two data channels you might see more revenue as well as better copper line utilisation. Trust BT to overprice the thing so that it doesn't see much uptake at all.

As "two lines" ISDN to the home never had a solid business case so it was pretty silly to try and have people pay through the nose for the possibilities of services they didn't understand nevermind thought they needed. They just need a phone, one that works.

Other than telco blundering, ISDN isn't quite dead. Besides that BRI, a PRI (the 30 usable channels variant) is what you get if you need more than a few voice channels. That's ISDN too. And, hm, GSM has copied a bunch of its signalling. So at least parts of it see a lot of use.

The technology works pretty well, but the supposed killer app wasn't and the marketing was worse. It also doesn't try and supplant POTS nor claims it needs blank cheques to make that happen. So it's not half as bad as DAB, if you must compare.

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Linux

Power

Over the winter I had a pocket-sized LW radio tuned in to Radio 4 for most of every night of the cricket test matches and ODIs. All it needed was a single pair of AAA batteries.

Are there any DAB units that can boast such low power consumption?

That's one problem with DAB. Another is that they're trying to sell DAB on the basis of improved audio quality. Yes in theory the audio quality is better than that of analogue (even though they've chopped the quality back a bit in the past few years). However when I try a listening test of DAB vs analogue in my back garden then analogue wins by miles, even LW. And my postcode is listed in a "green" area.

I just wish there was a more open approach to streaming technologies for internet radio. Most mass-market/commercial radio stations seem to fall into the trap of needing some sort of closed-source client or plugin technology: Flash, RealPlayer, Quicktime and god knows what else. Internet radio could destroy DAB (at home/work at least) if a standard format for exposing and connecting to streams was adopted... typing in a subdomain/URL to access a stream directly would be ideal. Could use DNS SRV/TXT records to expose a list of stations available at a particular (sub)domain so all the user has to do is input a simple URL and the radio retrieves the list of channels. Spotify could expose yer customised playlists as internet radio channels. There's plenty of possibilities... but instead I'm stuck with stupid BBC stupid iPlayer stupid Flash stupid plugin to listen to their radio online.

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Vic
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Not going to happen...

> typing in a subdomain/URL to access a stream directly would be ideal.

Pretty much all Internet streams can already be accessed in such a fashion. But the broadcasters frequently hide those URLs in the baggage they insist you use (Wireshark help here :-)

> Could use DNS SRV/TXT records to expose a list of stations available at a particular

> (sub)domain

But the broadcasters don't *want* you to get that info. Then you'd be able simply to tune in and listen, rather than clicking through a couple of pages of advertising before you get your stream...

> instead I'm stuck with stupid BBC stupid iPlayer stupid Flash stupid plugin

get_iplayer is your friend.

Vic.

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Jobs Horns

Brilliant

Yes there are work arounds for when you're listening at a computer.

But what about the potential market for portable internet radios that aren't computers?

Forcing people to look at online advertising becomes a bit irrelevent in that situation. A small internet radio device connecting to the internet via WiFi would likely use similar/more power than DAB but alot less than a full-blown computer.

My point is that it would be great if there was a standard for station discovery that all broadcasters adhere to... if they want people to listen using portable internet radios of course.

Until the stream data is presented in a standard format, internet radio will remain tied to computers. And while internet radio remains tied to computers, there's no impetus to agree a standard for radio stream discovery. Though there is this... http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2974 but I've not heard the BBC etc announcing support for it.

And I believe that's a real shame as internet radio is a clear improvement over the current DAB fiasco and would happily co-exist with analogue.

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Linux

title

Just to add... DAB should then be shut down and the extra dosh used to get basic ADSL to rural areas.

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WTF?

What the cock is wrong with FM?

How many bloody radio stations do we need anyway?

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+ 1

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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FAIL

Coverage...

My problem with DAB is that they use the same terminology as the phone companies... ie 99% coverage of the population, NOT the country.

Over here in Ireland for instance, that means that the phone companies smugly quote 99% coverage, when probably only some 50% of the actual land mass is covered. It'll be the same with DAB radio in the UK

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WTF?

Flat Broke?

The UK isn't the only government to run up debt, its been quite the thing over the last few decades. The current vogue for "we're flat broke so we can't do X, Y & Z" is really ideological, its part of a long term trend to privatize anything that's profitable and socialize anything that makes a loss. (See "The Shock Doctrine" to see how this works.) This is just another example of this process -- you'll notice that the DAB technology is proprietary so there's a pecuniary interest in pushing it. Its also expensive to implement the broadcasting part so, obviously, the taxpayer has to fund it. Overall, what you get is the consumer being shafted both ways -- you're forced to use products by mandate and you get to pay for it every which way. Modern business - don't ya love it?

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Flash

Maybe they can update DAB to use a Flash-style codec. That way I can be prompted to update my radio every time I switch it on.

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@Ummmmmm

That's not really fair - some people have got a DAB radio to work!

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Flame

You know something is BAD when...

You know something is bad when even geeks - especially geeks - don't want it. This particular geek spends far too much of his time picking apart digital TV standards and might be expected to be drooling over digital audio - but no, practically the only time I listen to radio is in the car, and only my hyper-local radio station, Atlantic FM, which has publicly said it could not survive the move to a regional mux because it couldn't target its advertising so well.

I don't think the government has any clue about the s**tstorm that will be kicked up if the World In General understood that every radio they own - on their phone, car, van, boat, stereo, ghetto blaster, site radio, shop etc. etc. - is going to instantly become unusable, and half their favourite local stations will go bust.

This is *not* like TV: With digital switchover there was a definite benefit in range of channels and quality of transmission, EPG and recorder support. Most people only have one or two TVs and it was a simple retrofit with a set-top box, and TV is a largely fixed receiver service. DAB is the opposite of all of those things!

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Too Power Hungry

The battery in the 1960's transistor radio in my bathroom lasts about 3 years. The batteries in the DAB radio last about 6 weeks before needing re-charging. It's a real pain.

Now - before you all tell me it's easy to just re-charge - it''s not. The power fails half way through my shower. Being an old git, by the time I've finished grumbling, drying off, finding my cleanest dirty shirt (thanks, Kris) and rushing for the door I've forgotten about the radio - and the next morning is groundhog day all over again. It can take weeks for me to remember to charge the battery.

The advantage of the 1960s radio is that it necessitates a trip to Maplin to buy the PP6 battery and the joy of buying solder tools, wire, die-cast boxes, BC108s, .......... aaahhh, food for the soul.

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Thumb Up

Re: Too Power Hungry

Well yes, my analogue FM radios are similarly economical with my rechargeable batteries. Interestingly it you can buy a radio that is powered by the water flow through the shower, but I can't see the sense in that, not even on Sunday mornin' comin' down. ;-)

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FAIL

The future is internet radio. Everywhere.

Just make it happen.

Unfortunately, OFCOM can't make anything useful happen. Ever.

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Coat

POP POP TOCK TOCK WUMBLE TOCK

Just listening to my DAB radio in the kitchen.

What a waste of money that was.

Oy you! Get your hands off my wallet. I'm fed up to here with being fleeced by every bastard who feels they have a right to my money...

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EWI
Dead Vulture

If it were Rupert Murdoch behind DAB...

Would it be reported in the same way here?

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No

Because Rupert Murdoch tends to back winners, you do the maths...

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backing winners

>>> Because Rupert Murdoch tends to back winners

er, no. the dirty digger tends to back stuff that makes him money or increases his power. this means he crushes the competition, even when it has a better offering. just like microsoft.

murdoch backs things that tend to win. this is not the same as backing winners.

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Vic
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I feel dirty now :-(

> [M]urdoch backs things that tend to win

It disturbs me to say anything in support of that man, but this almost certainly needs saying.

The reason that Murdoch wins so often is that he takes a different tack to most modern management.

The current trend is to be *extremely* reactive to what is going on. If a project doesn't show a return in n months, it gets canned.

Murdoch takes a very much longer view. His original Sky anaolgue satellite network was a money sink for *years*, and the rest of the industry scoffed at him. He won, because the long view was so very profitable.

When he set up Sky Digital, once again he poured money into an open sewer for years, and once again the industry scoffed at him. He won.

More companies would be as successful as Murdoch's companies if they weren't so infested with short-termist management.

Vic.

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A con

DAB was the biggest con. trick ever pulled on the great British wireless-listening public. I was an early adopter on the strength of the blurb. We were promised near-CD quality but what do we get? More and more stations shoe-horned in at ever-decreasing bit-rates with one actually in MONO, for goodness' sake!

There was also talk of user-adjustable compression initially, which I looked forward to with relish. Anything to get rid of the current butchering and processing of the audio before it enters the transmission chain. What ever happened to that?

Not to mention the extremely variable transmission coverage.

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Silver badge

Hybrid radio

The hybrid radio as described sounds pointless... If I've got Internet radio, then I don't need FM or DAB.

Seems the solution is mobile "broadband", have the networks' license rewritten to allow free data usage for what we now call radio stations. More choice, if done by 3G should have plenty of bandwidth and the choice of every station in the world....

Who am I kidding... That would be too simple.

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Silver badge

At least one of then got it right.

Dab isn't a result, it's the way you get the result. I bought a DAB radio 5 years ago to listen to the world service, and spent hours trying to find the exact spot in the room the signal was good enough to be listensble...but once I had it, I listened.

If DAB wants to seriously win, content is king. Offer new channels with content you can't get elsewhere, high bandwidth orchestra quality stuff, low bandwidth for talks- not just more of the same but not as good.

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it already wins on content

I like content on digital radio and made me go out and get a digital radio (when I don't listen online).

however this is placed in my kitchen plugged in (I had to struggle to find a location to get anything, Icould put my old FM anywhere)

reception is the problem, the digital cliff is too much, you either get it perfectly or move an inch and get nothing.

The good thing about my portable FM i take jogging is I can always hear a whole ong all the way through (yes I may get an odd hiss evreynow and then but at least it is not 10sec of silence) and the batteries never need replacing.

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Pay for it twice!

"Bowie saw promise in IP-delivery for high-quality streaming that neither FM nor DAB were able to deliver, and commercial targeted 1:1 advertising of the type Spotify had used."

So... we have to pay extra for a radio that works badly, pay extra for batteries to feed the greedy thing, then be insulted with mindless adverts spoiling the programs!

I NEVER listen to any radio program that has adverts, they drive me crazy! TV I record and fast forward through the adds.

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uh?

I lissen all ur comments. I used to have a fm aerial on the roof, to get good vhf reception.

I've moved, and have a portable dab/fm receiver. There were one or two times when I resorted to the fm button, and just decided not to bother after all. The dab is fine. And I don't have to remember 93.4 MHz, or whatever it was (is that not a service supplied by dab?).

I don't know anything about external aerials for dab, and where to point them, but the coordinates of tm transmitters were conveniently listed in the fm radio manual I once had. Maybe a uhf tele antenna would work.

So. I getting am poor reception. Glasshopper. Get a roof aerial you plonker. Its a broadcast.

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How is that better than your internet?

Using an external aerial on your roof means that you have to plug your radio in.

Or you could use your internet connection over WiFi and get even more choice - but this time, it's portable and doesn't have to be left plugged in! Plus the codec and bitrate is better, so the sound quality is higher.

You are far more likely to have good internet and WiFi connection than good DAB reception.

Also, if you've got poor internet, you probably don't have DAB at all.

- You also missed out a key point. You Moved House. Had you tried DAB at your old house, you probably would have had nothing at all, even with the external aerial. This is admitted as they currently claim to have 90% of FM coverage. Not 90% of population coverage.

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Paris Hilton

agreeing with post #1

Yes, scrap it.

Too expensive for content providers + too expensive (and complicated) for users = scrap it.

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Content

Lots of rants on here about the technical abilities of DAB (or lack of) but not a word about there's fuck all worth listening to on the existing radio channels why would anyone want to shell out a fair bit on a device so they can flick through the rest of the channels that were deemed not good enough to be put on real spectrum?

Radio listeners have been turning off in droves for years and it's only going to continue, DAB may well help some of those along..

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DAB is too late

Internet radio is perfectly viable (esp. in the home) right now, and has a much better long term future. It's FM's natural successor. I can even stream spotify in the car for most journeys these days*.. give it a few years and that kind of stuff will be the norm.

I'm reminded of the LS120 100mb floppies that came out *just* as USB keys and writable CDs made floppies obsolete. It's not that the technology doesn't work, it's just that it's too late... the world has moved on.

* I've travelled halfway down the country without a break - it's not quite viable as consumer tech yet but it's not far off.

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