back to article Analogue radio will CONTINUE in Blighty as Minister of Fun dodges D-Day death sentence

A keynote speech by Culture and Comms Minister Ed Vaizey at the Go Digital conference had been billed for weeks as “D-Day” for UK radio. But in the end, Vaizey kicked the DAB can down the road, setting no new date for a switchover from analogue to digital radio, nor any new threshold for such a switchover. Vaizey thus avoided …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vested interest

    The DAB lobby is full of vested interests. The big radio groups are so keen on it as it lets them and their transmission buddies get hold of the means of distribution and then squeeze out their smaller rivals.

    The costs of DAB for smaller radio stations are terrifying especially if you've been managing without a transmission contract and maintaining your own facilities on the top of the nearest hill.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Vested interest

      Shamelessly hijacking the top comment to kindly ask El Reg to make available the results of the "how much boost does it give an article to have a random thumbnail of girls in bikinis beside it" experiment.

      Go on, we all like a good graph.

      I saw an example of the same once where someone uploaded a youtube video explaining how to get more hits, but a shot of a hot girl as the very middle frame in the video. He uploaded it twice, once with and once without. The number of hits on both versions made the point nicely.

  2. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    Angel

    Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

    Cos at the moment you cannot tell if its just static white noise or music anyway. Radio 2 you can leave alone please, cos i sometimes do listen to that in my car.

    Don't think DAB will ever replace FM. Radios are in far more places than TV can be - like as above, i only ever listen to radio in my car. I am certainly not going to upgrade the head unit in my car just for that. FM is fine for the job. Maybe when i buy a new car it will have DAB, but it won't be at the top of my feature list.

    1. Jad

      Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

      My wife has a Digital Radio, and she uses it to listen to "Classic FM" ... (there's no accounting for taste) ... Fortunately it has an FM mode for when they decide that Digital radio is dead in the water, and with luck "Classic FM" already have a channel on that "Low Power Medium" ...

      Seriously, if we only had DAB and someone came up with the idea of FM, it would be regarded as a great upgrade on the original system:

      1) lower power usage requirements

      2) allows for easier management of local radio stations, with a lower cost of entry

      3) de-centralised control of transmitting (If the mast goes down, it doesn't take all stations down)

      4) ... I don't care I just don't agree that we really need DAB!

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

        >Radio 2 you can leave alone please

        You could change its jingle to something less nauseating, and axe Jeremy Vine - we don't need three hour listener polls about, for example, whether it's okay to hog the middle lane of the motorway (it isn't, don't do it, it's not up for discussion).

      2. This Side Up
        Stop

        Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

        Add:

        5) A weak signal or a bit of interference would result in bit of noise or a few crackles instead of complete break-up of sound.

        6) Radios in different rooms tuned to the same station would be synchronised.

        1. BD 1
          Stop

          Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

          Add:

          7) Time signals that actually indicated the time

      3. ad47uk

        Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

        Classic FM is on Fm and the quality is far better than on Dab, even if Classic Fm do have a better bitrate on DAb than other stations. I listen to classic FM on FM, only tried it on DAB once and that was enough.

        As for Radio one going to DAb, would we notice? the last time i tuned to Radio one it was full of junk and the sound quality was awful as everything is over compressed, sound wise.

        Freeradio is the same and have been for years, even when it was Wyebother, I mean Wyevern.

        Localy I like sunshine radio, but again I will listen to it via FM, not DAB.

        sorry, but DAb is a waste of space for music, fine for chat,

    2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

      Turns out my new car does have DAB... And it sounds awful.

      We just got rid of our only house dab radio and used the speakers as fridge magnets - much more useful. The future of radio is FM, internet, but not crappy obsolete dab codecs.

    3. Rob

      Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

      That's got to be the killer, is all those listeners using their car radios. I need to upgrade my head unit soon and my primary functions need to be FM and Bluetooth if DAB is included I might have a play to see what it is like in my area but other than that I won't look for this feature at the moment.

      Equally I'm not going to upgrade my head unit unless it gets damaged so it's now or never for DAB in my car.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Yes, make Radio 1 DAB

      Good idea - then the kids wont be able to listen to it in the car!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB's going nowhere. In the home its place has been taken by STBs, smart TVs and smart sound systems connected to tablets and in the car (which is, after all, where most of us listen to the radio), it simply doesn't work. Just a pity Vaizey has kicked the decision down to the next man rather than said what we all know. The sooner our abortive dalliance with DAB is ended, the better.

  4. Piro

    My goodness..

    "One source told us the cost of broadcasting a 128kbit/s MP2 stream is 16 times higher than broadcasting the same material via FM. Yet OFCOM structures its licenses so that if as a radio station you don’t commit to DAB, they’ll remove your FM licence."

    So an almost unusably low quality audio stream is 16 times higher in cost than FM? It's worse than I could have imagined. Why is OFCOM pushing DAB? So they can make some quick money down the line selling off the FM bands? How does that serve the public good?

  5. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    the cost of broadcasting a 128kbit/s MP2 stream is 16 times higher than broadcasting the same material via FM

    I'd love to see the explanation for that. There doesn't seem to be a logical technical reason, since multiple stations share one transmitter and 128kbit/s MP2 CODECs aren't exactly expensive these days. Just profiteering by Arqiva? Isn't that what Ofcom are supposed to stop (yes,I know, there are many things Ofcom is supposed to do)?

  6. davemcwish

    Is there still a significant use case?

    Given the high costs of DAB licences and the content providers' (can we silll call them broadcasters) ability to stream in higher quality, is there a compelling case for DAB these days ? I'm not sure even in a car the case holds as it's technically possible, though not yet prevalent, to pair your car audio to your phone (assuming that it's got sufficient internet connectivity).

    It seems that internet streaming is where things are headed; I don't have the comparitive costs compared with AM/FM/DAB licencing so maybe I'm wrong..

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Is there still a significant use case?

      "It seems that internet streaming is where things are headed; "

      No. That is a massively inefficient use of radio bandwidth. Also a very, very costly one. Why would I want to pay all that extra money every month for mobile 3/4g data just to listen to something I can get for "free" over the air from a £2.50 FM radio that will run for a week or two off £1 worth of batteries?

      1. localzuk

        Re: Is there still a significant use case?

        You're basing your analysis of cost on current pricing models. Access to mobile data is becoming more and more important every day. Things like internet radio work well with multicast, so in terms of bandwidth costs for the ISP/mobile provider, they are lower than 'ad-hoc' streams, so there's no reason I can see why internet radio can't be the way forward but with the bandwidth paid for by the radio stations. The overall cost will be significantly lower than DAB licenses and infrastructure.

        Not to mention, the overall amount of data used by an audio stream is not going to change really now, yet the amount of bandwidth available to customers will increase continually.

  7. TheBully
    Pirate

    Dab in the car

    I have DAB in the car but tbh I have been listening to FM lately. I had to retune my set to another London only feed which was supposed to offer much higher quality. However it doesn't sound very good at 80kbps and reception is not as good anymore. So much for being cultured, I am listening to random pirate stations now ;)

  8. Missing Semicolon
    Unhappy

    If there is soon to be twice as much capacity

    ... why isn't the cost of transmission falling? Presumably, Arqiva being a monopoly, they are heavily regulated.

    I wonder who the non-execs are? There is a trail to be followed here.......

  9. Jim 59

    Sorry it can't be avoided

    It's time the UK embraced the future, bit the bullet and set a date for the unavoidable switchover from DAB to FM

    1. Piro

      Re: Sorry it can't be avoided

      That's what happened in Germany noted on these very pages: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/28/germany_switches_dab_off/

      According to Wikipedia, though, they started broadcasting again in 2011.

  10. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Good!

    Up here in the frozen North, DAB radios emit a squawk so hideously painful to my ears that I never want to own one.

    1. Red Bren
      Joke

      Re: Good!

      "DAB radios emit a squawk so hideously painful to my ears"

      I agree, those southern accents do grate on the nerves...

      P.S. Am I on the naughty step or is Mr O personally moderating all the comments on this article?

  11. SkippyBing Silver badge

    '“We think it would be great if the BBC made Radio 1 or Radio 2 DAB only!”, Paul Keenan, Bauer CEO told the Go Digital festival'

    I think it'd be great if Paul Keenan gave me all his money while being forced to listen to a legion of babbling DAB radios. Isn't it fun making up things that'll never happen...

    1. pepper

      Who knows! One can always dream!

  12. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    FM radio will not be killed...

    ...it's just that it will be relegated to only carry local radio. It's only the national stations that will be forced to change.

    So the FM radios that people have will not be come useless. They will still be able to be used, but only to listen to local stations which will still broadcast on FM.

    Does not make me want the switch to happen any time soon. DAB reception is dire on my journey to and from work when I do most of my radio listening.

    1. This Side Up

      Re: FM radio will not be killed...

      I don't want to listen to tin-pot parochial radio stations. They're for the benefit of the broadcasters not the listeners.

    2. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: FM radio will not be killed...

      "still be able to be used, but only to listen to local stations which will still broadcast on FM"

      So a rich, culturally varied mix of Top 40 playlists, generic commercial linefeed radio news and commercials and phone ins where you can listen to the very best froth mouthed local xenophobes and right wing nutters. I can hardly wait.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: FM radio will not be killed...@DiViDeD

        Agree.

    3. Alan Edwards

      Re: FM radio will not be killed...

      > They will still be able to be used, but only to listen to local stations which will still broadcast on FM.

      Local stations that are all commercial, so have a 50/50 mix of adverts and crap "music" they have been paid to play. That'd be a good way to kill FM off once and for all.

  13. DragonLord

    So basically, because the incumbent transmitter operator is price gouging people can't afford to put enough stations on digital to make consumers want a digital radio.

    Simple fix, stop the price gouging.

    After all, if it costs 16 times as much to run digital as FM then you'd be a fool to want to go digital.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Radio Birdsong

    Doesn't *really* count as an ex-DAB station if it was only ever a test/placeholder transmission surely? :-)

    Don't recall ever coming across it on DAB, but I do recall the FM transmissions (apparently the same loop of bird song according to Wikipedia) if only because they confused the hell out of me until I realised they were a test for the soon-to-launch Classic FM.

    Given it was a loop, did people ever complain about the repeats (or more likely, did they even notice), or ask them to vary the schedule a bit more, like having Parrots Hour consisting of "who's a pretty boy then" and so on?

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Radio Birdsong

      Funnily enough, we have Birdsong down here in Oz too, and it's worth listening to if only for the missing bits. I can remember the FM test broadcasts in the UK, hearing the wind sighing in the trees, a quite decent sense of 'open space', the occasional car in the distance. Not a bad immersive stereo image too.

      On my DAB radio, once I've carefully balanced it on the bathroom windowsill and turned the volume up, I can listen to what appear to be a series of electronically generated 'birdsong' samples, in mono, at 64kbps.

      Isn't technology wonderful?

  15. Nigel 11

    DAB only

    They've already made BBC World Service DAB only (well, apart from AM ... it wasn't ever on UK FM). This is the only reason my DAB receiver didn't get thrown in the trash can.

  16. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    I bought a DAB clock radio..but only because I couldn't find any other radio controlled units to replace the old FM Roberts unit that had failed after many years service. Sadly DAB isn't very good there either. The time can be out by anything up to 40 seconds. Randomly it seems :-/

    As for actual audio output - meh. It has an iPod dock so I don't listen to the radio itself.

  17. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Market Rates

    ..the cost of broadcasting a 128kbit/s MP2 stream is 16 times higher than broadcasting the same material via FM

    But isn't OFCOM's rule to charge the market rate for frequencies to ensure maximum usage (and revenue)? So if more people want to use FM (and it uses more bandwidth compared to DAB), shouldn't they be practically paying broadcasters to use DAB, rather than shafting them?

    If they followed their own rules, more broadcasters would move to digital, and that would lead to more consumers buying DAB kit for the greater choice. (Positive feedback, I believe it's called.) Once DAB is heavily used, switch off FM and ramp up the DAB charges.

    Maybe OFCOM should look up the phrase "Loss leader"

    Silly me. That's a logical, rational argument; something OFCOM know nothing about.

  18. Hilibnist
    Meh

    97% of the population

    It's frustrating that this is another digital switchover which is being pedalled on the basis that coverage for 'most of the population' is a satisfactory target.

    Digital TV was touted as the panacea for lousy reception of terrestrial broadcasts for those in outlying areas. Prior to the TV switchover on the North Norfolk coast, we were treated to mostly flawless Yorkshire TV, but nothing local.

    After switchover, the DTV signal doesn't broadcast across The Wash - and the local signal hasn't been boosted to reach the coast. The same is true of DAB where the terrain leaves us in the shadow of the nearest transmitter. And don't think the internet will solve it... we're too far away from the exchange for that. Kill the analogue radio and it’s strictly a pay service (Sky TV isn't brilliant but at least it works).

    Unfortunately, the 3% of the population could be the ones who need the service for public broadcast. During the recent floods, the only way we could find out what was going on was via satellite TV or analogue radio. I’d imagine the same could be true for a lot of outlying communities where providing coverage is just inconvenient (i.e. expensive).

    1. Skoorb

      Re: 97% of the population

      Ahh, but 'everyone' (who doesn't live at the bottom of a ditch) can get Freesat (from the BBC and ITV) for only £50-£200 for the box and about £90 for the installation, so that's alright then...

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: 97% of the population

      it’s strictly a pay service (Sky TV isn't brilliant but at least it works).

      What about Freesat? Mostly the same channels as DTV/Freeview, upfront cost is just antenna + STB, no subscription.

      1. Hilibnist

        Re: 97% of the population

        Thank-you Freesat fans - but unfortunately it's still not a panacea. Perhaps we can prevail on OFCOM to sponsor "free" satellite dishes. Plus installation. Plus replacement after five years when the salty sea air corrodes them to uselessness. At the moment Sky prevails locally, but only because some residents pay for the service and the regular replacement of the kit.

        (hashtag unhappyyokel, minorityinterest etc.)

        The point is that turning of FM broadcasts would remove an important public service which is available to everyone. Whether or not you like the content, FM Radio remains free and accessible in a way that TV isn't.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: 97% of the population

      > North Norfolk coast, we were treated to mostly flawless Yorkshire TV

      But did you understand it?

      1. BigMon

        Re: 97% of the population

        Arf, arf. Guffaw, guffaw. *wipes eyes*. Brilliant, just brilliant.

        Sigh.

      2. Hilibnist

        Re: 97% of the population

        Understand it? We dreamed of visiting the metropolitan excesses of Grimsby and Hull... as seen on TV.

        Er no, I guess not...

    4. MJI Silver badge

      Re: 97% of the population

      Freesat - get a Humax HDR, dish and quad LNB (2 spares)

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. imanidiot Silver badge

    Across the channel

    This malarky has started on this side of the channel (In the Netherlands) as well, with a lot of radio commercials. Everytime I heard one I was thinking: "Why would I want tech that is in most ways exactly the same and in practical use often inferior?". I just don't see DAB as adding anything useful to already existing FM broadcasting.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Across the channel

      And, ironically in the UK, I hear most of the DAB commercials on .... digital radio stations! Makes me laugh.

  20. sorry, what?
    Pint

    “We think it would be great if the BBC made Radio 1 DAB only!”

    Me too... and I'll stick with Radio 4 FM.

    1. Piro
      Thumb Up

      Re: “We think it would be great if the BBC made Radio 1 DAB only!”

      I see nothing at all wrong with this comment.

  21. Spoonsinger

    Re : "You can find Radio Birdsong online."

    You can hear birdsong just before 6am on R4. It's usually chirp or caw. Although everybody may have heard the word - versatile isn't that word.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's fair to say that if Bauer want it, it's wrong.

    Bauer Media seem to be the cancer of British radio, buying up or otherwise aquiring interesting, relevant stations and grinding them down into a paste with a distinctive whiff of Alan Partridge.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: It's fair to say that if Bauer want it, it's wrong.

      "Bauer Media seem to be the cancer of British radio, buying up or otherwise aquiring interesting, relevant stations and grinding them down into a paste with a distinctive whiff of Alan Partridge."

      If you think they're bad you should look at the scorched earth policy of Global. They bought up local stations such as Trent & Ram FM , essentially closed them down and shoved a feed of Craptal FM through their transmitters. Oh , but there's still a local breakfast show. BFD. Also they converted Galaxy , the nations only dance music network , into the tedious easy listening Heart FM which is just a cut price version of Radio 2 without the talent. Whatever they touch they manage to turn into the radio version of a Coke Zero.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: It's fair to say that if Bauer want it, it's wrong.

        Well I am fed up with the remains of ILR.

        Started when we moved into our current house and I installed a nice FM aerial, some company bought the local radio station.

        Few years later driving cross country, 3 local radio stations playing same songs, got nearer home, ours the same.

        Boring.

        Then now, another company bought them and they disappeared, and some stupid name one now there. Had to swap to BBC local radio and that keeps hopping to other stations which are not local to me but BBC assumes they are.

        No wonder I change to CD or listen to V6 instead.

  23. Keith Oborn

    In all the noise about DAB vs FM, can I ask why in the last few years the ONLY radio transmission system I find that works reliably around these parts (North Hampshire, Thames Valley, London) is DAB.

    FM will give one station if you are lucky and near, say, central Reading or central London. All FM car radios are otherwise useless, and similarly a domestic unit unless it's on a very large ariel.

    Our two Pure portables "just work" pretty much anywhere.

    Oh, sorry, forgot: Long Wave works, and provides about as much choice as FM. And about the same sound quality.

    DId someone turn the power down on all those FM transmitters?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >DId someone turn the power down on all those FM transmitters?

      Yeah, I sometimes get that feeling... the car tuner doesn't seem to pick up Radio 4 when scanning, though I can manually tune to it no problem. I now have it across a few presets, to cover its frequency where I live, and areas North and South of me.

      The tuner will automatically tune to music stations no problem.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Car aerial

        My old 2000 year car has a nice 75cm whip. The little bee stings and shark fins are poor for VHF-FM and useless for MW or LW.

        Fantastic LW, MW & VHF-FM on it. Awkward to add weaker stations. The RDS and TA (BBC seems to switch from R4 to R. Ulster for Traffic Announcements) works great though so only one preset needed for each VHF station.

    2. Piro

      Honestly

      I would not be surprised at all.

      It's a scheme that would work, too.

      "Oh look at those old radios, they're hopeless, buy this new thing".

      Just need people like yourself that actually have a memory and have monitored the situation.

    3. Grouchy Bloke

      DAB just doesn't work for me

      @Keith

      You're lucky, I'm in Maidenhead and in my house, downstairs, I get zero DAB stations, upstairs, I get some occasionally with a lot of Dalek style break up of sound.

      i just hate listening to those stations that are constantly advertising DAB saying how good it is. Utter Rubbish

      I use FM and internet radio, they seem fine...DAB's for the dustbin.

    4. Peter Mount
      Thumb Down

      You have DAB working in London?

      Try using DAB in SoHo - about as central London as you can possibly get.

      You guessed it, there's nothing. Nada. If you are lucky there's a brief second of garbled noise but thats it.

      FM on the other hand works perfectly fine.

      Guess which one I use when I'm at my desk?

    5. boltar Silver badge

      "FM will give one station if you are lucky and near, say, central Reading or central London. All FM car radios are otherwise useless, and similarly a domestic unit unless it's on a very large ariel."

      You should buy a new car radio - mind picks up dozens of stations all along the M4 corridor.

  24. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Mushroom

    “We think it would be great if the BBC made Radio 1 or Radio 2 DAB only!”, Paul Keenan, Bauer CEO told the Go Digital festival

    It may come as a surprise to you, Mr Keenan, but BBC radio stations are run as a service to the listeners, most of whom are the people who pay for the service. They aren't there to provide leverage for your failed marketing effort.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OH RLY?

    I love these parts of EV's speech:

    "The UK is at the forefront of developments in digital radio, and we have a huge opportunity not just with the UK market but also throughout Europe."

    "More than 50% of digital radios on the world market are made by British companies – Pure, Roberts, Revo and others – with UK technology in nearly 80% of digital radios."

    Yes, Mr Vaizey. Because we are the main proponent of DAB, (note DAB, not DAB+) therefore there is little interest for other potential market players to invest any real resources to create radios for export to the UK. I also would take issue with your use of the word 'forefront'. Maybe from the POV of national infrastructure, but certainly not from a end user point of view. Ofcom's own charts on European purchase: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cmr13/international/icmr-4.16

    So yes, massive market to export to, isn't there? Take up is considerably poorer for a variety of reasons I suspect, the lack of BBC being one of them.

    Digital radio could be implemented well. Unfortunately the UK has now a c'ked up, half arsed implementation being driven by lobbyists with no real sensible agenda. And ridiculous BBC articles; I'm looking at you, Sillito.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Boffin

      Digital radio could be implemented well?

      Actually after many years research I conclude that Digital Radio is always going to be inferior to FM. Don't forget AM either, it's useful too.

      The Problem isn't DAB, DAB+ would be just used to deliver 64kbps and double number of stations. At 192kbps or even better 256k, the advantage of DAB+ becomes slight.

      DAB should be 256K. MP2 on satellite used to be 256k. At higher bit rates such as 256K MP3 or AAC hasn't so much advantage over MP2. In some cases MP3 and AAC can sound worse if you have poor hearing as it's a psycho-acoustic model based on normal hearing and "throwing away" even more data..

      Digital Radio of any needs x6 as many transmitters as there are today, though most are small, to "fill in " coverage due to digital cliff for Mobile/Portable users, unlike very gradual AM and quite gradual FM in fringe reception. The "bubbling mud" isn't purely a DAB thing, it's an artefact of not enough FEC data before you fall off the "digital cliff".

      Comparing Digital TV vs Analogue and Digital Radio vs Analogue the Digital TV has almost no disadvantage and many advantages. Digital radio is usually better quality than AM, never better than FM but every other aspect it's inferior to AM or FM!

      The user interface experience is rubbish. Preset stations only, large inter station delay, massive delay if you have to change Multiplex frequency (there is a limit to SFN size), typically x20 power consumption, hardly any DAB sets have RDS on the FM, current DAB features inferior to RDS + TA, virtually no sets with LW / MW (even FM isn't universal, also what about stations outside UK?).

      DAB is about dominance by BBC (extra channels) or very large commercial outfits. It's not about real choice, quality, value or ease of use.

  26. Shoot Them Later
    Windows

    I had the pleasure of listening on the nice FM radio in my kitchen to the prize tool Quentin Howard (behind both DAB in general and I believe Radio Birdsong in particular) being interviewed on You and Yours by Winifred Robinson. It was a predictable display of obfuscation, misdirection and blinkered bloody-mindedness.

    The shirty response when Ms Robinson suggested that many people thought DAB was the wrong technology was impressive. Here's a little bit of the response:

    "I hear you Winifred now going on [...] you should remember [...] I think you're being rude to half your listeners [...] it's lovely to pick up on these little gems saying oh it's the wrong technology [...] it's Daily Mail type headlines and I think you should be thinking better than that".

    - defensive? Check!

    - hostile? Check!

    - patronising? Check!

    My favourite line (on why FM should be switched off): "and this is from an Industry perspective not a listener perspective - we'll get to that in a minute, I guess". Nice to see he has his priorities straight. He never did get to the "listener perspective" by the way, which probably says all that needs to be said about DAB and its apologists.

    Make no mistake, I like digital radio, and I listen regularly online. I even have a DAB radio somewhere. I just think that DAB is bad technology being forced on us by vested interests, and that it is in the best interests of the *listeners* to keep FM transmission as an option for the forseeable.

    The You And Yours edition is available online here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03lnzxm. I thought it was good radio.

    1. graeme leggett

      It's a curious thought that only some newspapers have given us stereotypical pejorative terms:

      Daily Mail headline

      Sun Reader

      Guardianista

      Daily Telegraph letters page

  27. Chad H.

    The contents not there because the people arent there, and the people arent there as the content isn't there.

    Time to scrap it and start again.

    1. andy gibson

      "content not there"

      6music is probably the best DAB station there is, and getting more popular:

      http://www.mediauk.com/radio/316/bbc-radio-6-music/listening-figures

      However, I'd happily abandon DAB if they'd give them an FM frequency.

  28. kevjs

    Urm, Digital 1 is kinda congested.

    "even though the existing Arqiva-owned commercial multiplex Digital 1 is hardly congested." - Really? It's currently bursting at the seems with a shed loads of mono-only stations because there isn't the space to run them in stereo.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Urm, Digital 1 is kinda congested.

      The reason it's congested is that it's more cost effective to squeeze as much as possible on there at crap quality. Some of the radio stations are little more than a PC in the racks room of another radio station. Far more profitable than say just running the main station at a decent bitrate.

  29. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Agreed with most other posters: it is a ruse to promote hardware sales.

    Plus, of course, we need to recognise fact that any inflationary measures on the economy merely return extra tax revenues to the UK Treasury and it is worth avoiding for that reason alone?

  30. El Presidente

    We used to call it Bird FM

    Coming home after a few days on the lash, still vibrating from the music and ... Bird FM.

    Even in a dingy flat in an inner city .. close your eyes, pop your cans on and you have a garden.

    Ought to be the flagship test station for DAB

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone waved the disability flag?

    The basic over-compressed DAB audio quality may sound rough to those who care to listen/are bothered by it, but for hearing-aid users heavily compressed audio can interact really badly with the aids' DSP (background noise suppression etc) and make it sound 10× worse (or even unintelligible).

  32. dmck

    I bought the budgie a DAB radio to listen to as I was assured it would work in my area.

    But all I got were angry squawks from the budgie when I got home as the DAB radio had lost Radio 2 as the signal had been lost and the radio wanted to be retuned.

    Now that I've switched back to Radio 2 on FM there is peace again in the house, well sort of.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interference

    VHF/FM will be becoming victim to increasing levels of interference from all the dodgey ("CE marked") imported power-supplies, and the VDSL copper-based telephone-line broadband (up to 30MHz signals on unshielded copper, and potentially higher harmonics from "rusty-joints"!).

    At least with FM, being analog, the audible sound of the interference gives those who are technically minded a strong clue to the source of the interference, and the means to some self-help to address it.

    With digital, almost any interference that exceeds the error-correction thresholds will cause squeaks and drop-outs or bubbling-mud, and the average user has no way of knowing whether it's a weak signal, a central-heating thermostat, the power-supply for the Christmas lights, or the aircraft flying overhead (though the latter shouldn't affect DAB with it's echo-proof / SFN / long symbol-periods).

  34. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Obvious solution

    Are there short range USB DAB transmitters?

    Then you could get a rasberryPi with wifi, have it receive radio from iPlayer on t'internet and rebroadcast it to your DAB radio. Then that would be twice as digital as the DAB radio and so twice as good.

  35. MJI Silver badge

    I can't go DAB in the car

    Because I would lose the ability to play CDs and MDs.

    I like my MD head unit, I can play copies of my LPs with it, including stuff not on TPB.

    I like my CD changer as well

    DAB is too like a poor MP3 to me

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I can't go DAB in the car

      If your head unit has an AUX input then you can have DAB. I find radio4xtra a decent listen apart from the coverage problems.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Aux input

        Well that is used for my CD changer.

      2. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: I can't go DAB in the car

        To get an aux input on my ford headunit in the car you have to:

        Remove the cd autochanger from under the passenger seat.

        Install a 3rd party unit onto the autochanger connector, to pretend to the headunit the changer is connected.

        Connect your dab/aux source to the 3rd party unit.

        It's not neat.. ;)

  36. Anakin
    FAIL

    What about crises?

    Up here in Sweden we are supposed to turn on the radio in case of alarm.

    Many of us have a cheap little FM radio just in case.

    The batterys last forever in them.

    In a poll allmoast everybody was not going to by a DAB radio when the FM is killed in about 9 years.

    So when the goverment wan't to tell something in the future. No one is listening.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What about crises?

      Twitter?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about crises?

        :Twitter?

        Frankly I'd be surprised if Twitter had a bigger UK audience than DAB has. FM certainly beats both hands down.

    2. Piro

      Re: The thing that gets me...

      Well, they don't listen to you, so I suppose it makes sense..

  37. This Side Up

    Kicking the decision down the road

    In case you hadn't noticed there's a general election in 2015. Are you surprised?

  38. rhydian

    Another one of OFCOM's DAB fiddles is...

    ...To only publish DAB population coverage maps, rather than geographical coverage maps, hiding the fact that large rural areas and long lengths of trunk roads won't get DAB at all.

  39. khisanth

    DAB is still flaky in many parts of the country. They say it has no interference, yet ignore the fact it can break up and sound WORSE than interference.

    I have a DAB radio indoors and the signal is usually okay,but can drop for no reason. However in my car its FM of course. The coverage of digital is simply not good enough to allow cars to get as good a signal as FM.

  40. Stuart Castle

    DAB good?

    Just to add my bit..

    I've given DAB a fair go..

    My first DAB radio was a Psion Wavefinder. Good little piece of kit once they sorted out the driver problems.. The problem it had is that being USB only, you needed to attach it to a PC, so, even with a laptop, it was stretching the definition of portable.

    My second DAB radio was a Robert's pocket radio. This was a good little radio, just suffered the normal DAB problem of bad reception when moving (which sort of negates the point of a pocket radio as you are likely to move at some point while using it) and went through batteries at a rate of knots..

    My third was a Sony Pocket DAB. Unfortunately, I ignored the warning about shutting it down properly before removing the batteries and blew it up as a result..

    My fourth was the replacement for the above (another Sony Pocket DAB). This was OK. It was relatively small. Used a lot less power than the above Roberts radio (although still went through two AA batteries in 5 days with 1 hour listening each day) and still suffered the same reception problems.

    I think the problem with DAB is that partly that technology has overtaken it, and partly that it was based on old technology to start with.

    Look at my situation. I still listen to a lot of radio. Mostly in bed or when I am travelling. When I am travelling, I have an iPhone app (called Tunein radio) that gives me access to the webstreams of tens of thousands of radio stations (including all the ones I am interested in on DAB). The reception I get is far from perfect, but is far superior to DAB, simply because the mobile phone networks have *already* invested a lot of money in their networks..

    At home, I listen to the radio on Freeview which, unlike DAB, I can receive well all over my house (which is odd,as our local transmitter for both is Crystal Palace)

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    High Cost Of DAB

    Part of that is because each DAB mux covers a very large area.

    You are smalltown FM with a 200 watt transmitter on top of your local hill. You might maintain this yourself or have a low cost transmission contract. You also probably have geographical features nearby which contain your signal. Ergo you end up broadcasting to a radius of 10 miles and perhaps 200,000 people. This fits your business model and you turn a small profit despite the downturn in radio advertising revenues.

    Along comes the offer to join the local DAB multiplex. This broadcasts for radius of 30 miles and covers major cities and a total of 1.5 million people. It utilises 3 transmitter sites, 2 of which are major sites which cost a premium to to have mast space on. You don't need this coverage and you certainly can't afford it. Nobody 30 miles away gives a toss what's happening in Smalltown.

    DAB is just not currently scaled to work for smaller stations where costs have to be ruthlessly controlled in order to ensure they turn a profit.

  42. PeterM42
    Megaphone

    And what IS good....

    ....is that umpteen million car radios will not be obsolete!

    Good grief! - the government has actually made a SENSIBLE decision at last!!!

  43. John H Woods

    DAB vs 3G

    I have tried DAB in the car, it's horrible. FM has become pretty bad too - I can't help feeling an earlier post suggesting they've powered down some FM stations must be correct.

    The big surprise is that a phone on '3' on an all-you-can-eat data plan gives more continuous coverage than DAB - and sounds much better too, not to mention having almost infinitely more choice - even before you count the replay services such as iPlayer radio.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone found a decent DAB radio?

    I would really honestly like to hear of any DAB radio that will give me adequate reception. My study is on the first floor on the outskirts of Basingstoke, and the few DAB radios I have tried sounded dreadful. Not only the usual symptoms of a poor signal, but a kind of regular fluttering sound. Blame the poor reception? But my FM radios work fine in exactly the same place.

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