Saturday, 14 February 2015

The end of FM Radio?

A matter which concerns me greatly at the moment is the impending switch from FM to DAB radio, which could happen in the UK as soon as 2016. In 2013, communications minister Ed Vaizey announced a postponement of the digital switchover to "after 2015", following public pressure.

Manufacturers of broadcast and receiving equipment are naturally keen to sell lots of shiny new kit. Ironically, there are technically superior alternatives to DAB already available. The technology is over 20 years old and was superseded by the incompatible DAB+ system in 2007. Canada has already abandoned DAB entirely. Here are some of the things wrong with it:
  • The level of coverage leaves a lot to be desired - currently it is thought that 9% of the country will not have adequate DAB reception by the end of 2016
  • The quality of DAB leaves a lot to be desired. We have a couple of DAB radios in the house and usually leave them tuned to FM because the quality is better
  • DAB is not suitable for reception in a moving car
  • There is a random digitisation delay, meaning that the "pips" are not accurate enough to set a watch by. If you have radios in different rooms tuned to the same station, there's a ghastly "echo" effect because each radio has a different delay factor
Most households in the country will have to have to junk hundreds of pounds' worth of perfectly functional equipment. That's in effect a stealth tax and very bad for the environment. Many radio stations, some of which are run on a shoestring, may be forced to close down as they cannot afford the investment in new equipment.

It was bad enough when analogue TV ended, but at least the digital alternative was of better quality and there were add-on Freeview receivers available at a reasonably low price to adapt existing equipment.

If there's a technology that is really superior to FM radio, it should succeed on its own merits in the marketplace and not by regulation. Let's put more pressure on the government to postpone the FM switch-off indefinitely. I cannot find any on-line campaigns or petitions currently running to keep FM radio, but it could become an issue in the May 2015 UK General Election if enough of us raise the subject.

1 comment:

Allan Kelly said...

I think you missed the big advantage of FM radios over DAB: power consumption.

DAB sets eat batteries like there is no tomorrow. Not good for the environment. So the one sets I do own stays plugged in - still using more energy than an FM.

When I replaced a set act Christmas I deliberately bought an FM because.... It is for the bathroom so must work on batteries.

Also, why pay a lot more money for a set where I don't need the extra features? The DAB set I have only switches bettered Radio 4 and Radio 3.

DAB does not actually solve any problem for the consumer. Only manufacturers and cell phone companies.