back to article Lords: Analogue radio must die

Digital radio isn't great and the public doesn't want it, but you're going to get it anyway. So recommends the House of Lords Communications Committee today. 90 per cent of the UK listens to radio, and 94 per cent of listeners are happy with what they've got. The Lords accept most of the points made by critics of DAB and the …


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  1. yoinkster

    I feel special

    I'm in a small 10% minority of people who don't listen to the radio at all, did they pluck that stat out their arses? ... After all, I purchased an mp3 player because it has no adverts or crap talking DJs, surely more than just 10% have done the same thing?

    1. Marvin the Martian

      It's mislabeled.

      It should actually read "90% of UK people gets regularly subjected to radio".

      If it wasn't for cab driver's radios (instead of decent records --- even if it's not my taste, please play something personal instead of charts drivel interspersed with jingles), mates' failure to play mp3s on car stereo, and clothes stores trying to annoy me, I'd also be in the radio free fraction.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, very questionable stats

      If I got together 9 of my friends I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one in the room who doesn't listen to the radio.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Unless you've got a car

      In which case the chances are fairly high that you've got an analog radio, even if you don't use it much.

  2. censored

    I've just cancelled the order for an all-singing new DAB radio

    If 6music is going, there's not much to listen to.

    What kind of push is the BBC going to give it in the future if it's pulling out half it's digital-only services now?

    1. Gerard Krupa

      Re: I've just cancelled...

      "What kind of push is the BBC going to give it in the future"

      The Beeb will be replaced with 100s upon 100s of generic commercial stations with adverts every 10 minutes and a looping playlist of only 6 songs. At least with DAB you will have a little text display showing you which of those 6 tracks you just heard in super-tinny quality for the 99th time today assuming your receiver's tenuous hold on the signal isn't disrupted by being inside a building or standing next to someone whose sandwiches are wrapped in tinfoil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe they'll add

        Radio 1 + 1

        Like those + 1 TV stations that repeat what was on in the previous hour, only with the radio, both stations would be broadcasting an identical feed almost all of the time. Well certainly in Radio 1s case anyway.

  3. john loader


    What does anyone get out of this except the manufacturers of over priced sets - a bit of wavelength for teh government to sell whilst us poor saps have to fork out millions between us. Perhaps Lords don't listen to the radio in the car, too busy uncorking the champers

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      What do they get out of this?

      Why another big swathe of bandwidth to auction for ridiculous amounts of cash.

      The FM, AM and LW spectrums are gigantic compared to the pathetic little slots the mobi companies have been bidding on, and have a much greater range.

      You could fund an entire idiotic ID card project from that lot, with Biometrics, Retina scanners, blood samplers, Serior directorship and everything. (or a couple of hundred hospitals if you give a damn about that sort of thing)

      1. Steve X
        Thumb Down

        Raed the report

        > The FM, AM and LW spectrums are gigantic compared to the pathetic little slots the mobi companies have been bidding on

        Not so. GSM 900 has 25MHz, DCS 1800 has 60MHz. Band II FM has only 20 MHZ, and medium/long wave combined less than 2MHz.

        > and have a much greater range.

        Which is a severe inconvenience for a cell-based network, since each cell can only support a certain number of users. The bigger each cell is, the fewer users the system as a whole can handle.

        If you actually read the HoL report you'd see that even they accept that the freed-up spectrum is of no significant commercial value.

  4. rototype

    Sounds about right

    Govornment says "We think it's good (we can probably tax it some more), so you're going to get it whether you like it or not, and you are going to have to pay for it"

    Sounds like the death bell for a LOT of smaller (and often more interesting) radio stations.

    Looks like Caroline may be making a comeback......

    1. Kenny Myers

      It has

      Listening to Radio Caroline right now !

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blank cheque?

    I suspect that was provided by the DAB lobby?

  6. Alan Douglas

    Environmental issues

    Has anyone calculated the increased power consumption that will be required to run all these DAB radios? Must be some % of a new power station.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quite the opposite actually

      FM transmitters consume megawatts of power. DAB uses far less, kW not MW. OK they could do with cranking it up a bit even so; also the transmit amplifier efficiency is not so good due to the high peak-to-mean ratio of an OFDM signal.

      DAB, being a digital system, is able to work with only 7.5dB of signal-to -noise (theoretically - actual designs need one or two more dB). By "work" i mean achieve a bit error rate of less than 10^-4, which does give you the bubbling mud phenomenon, but again a couple more dB will make this go away, and with DAB+ it will go altogether - an additional Reed-Solomon encode will correct these low-rate errors completely.

      that said, i don't want to see FM sacrificed on the altar of "better use of the radio spectrum" - or "better financial return from something we think we own"

      - we, the british public should own the FM band by virtue of the money we have spent over the years and still today on FM radios.

      Its a working worldwide standard, leave it the fuck alone...

      1. Sartori

        Umm, no?

        FM transmitters transmit Megawatts of effective radiated power, they don't USE Megawatts of power. The actual power of a transmitter is far less than the transmit power due to aerial efficiencies. Either way, neither ERP or transmitter power equate to power consumption.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down


        There are no UK FM radio stations using "Megawatts 'of power. I think the maximum in the UK for analogue FM transmission is 250KW. Typically a mid sized commercial station might be using 4 or 5 KW with many small stations scraping by on 100-500 watts.

        Now AM transmissions are different. They are very power hungry and inefficient. Radio 4 and Talksport have 500 KW transmitters which on AM will certainly mean having to put more than a megawatt into the TX array to get 500KW out. AM transmission is beastly, I once worked for a small scale AM station licensed for 10 watts or something daft. We used to have to stick 50 watts into the aerial to get the correct output out.

        Yes DAB uses less but lets not exaggerate the problem when the majority of non national stations are scraping by on less leccy than is used by an average fan heater.

    2. Euchrid

      re: Environmental issues

      A little while ago – I can’t remember, but I guessing 3-4 years ago – someone posed this type of question in Radio 4’s feedback. The answer was phased as an example of if you have a wind-up radio, 30 seconds of winding it up would give you about 30 minutes of analogue listening; if you were listening to DAB you’d get about 10 seconds.

      On the other hand, I believe most DAB radios aren’t so power hungry these days and some are touted as being very energy efficient.

  7. Andy Livingstone


    "Digital radio isn't great and the public doesn't want it, but you're going to get it anyway".

    Replace subject with anything you can think of.

    It's Britain today.

  8. Mike Parris

    What a shambles

    The public aren't confused. They either don't know what's proposed, or they do and they don't like it.

    When the public find out that they are going to have to throw away all their perfectly good radio's there will be a massive backlash. With TV switch over no TV's needed to be thrown away. With the car scrappage scheme they were trading in worn out cars. With this we will have to scrap all our radios, and most of them will have many years life left in them.

    I will be pretty upset if I have to throw away my 8 perfectly good FM radios in the name of digital progress. Most households, like me, have a lot of FM radios in their house and cars, and they will all be scrap.

    1. alyn

      Many Tvs will be scrap

      Nobody has thought about the millions of portable TVs. Do you think those will work on Freeview with a 6 inch ariel? As for mobile phone with built-in DAB, will those work using the headphone lead as an ariel? If the authorities get their way and force everyone onto digital TV/radio, then portable listening will be a thing of the past (apart from MP3).

      1. Pan_Handle

        Shakespeare reference?

        It's "aerial" FFS, not "ariel". I know we're not supposed to discriminate against illiteracy but that one really gets to me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And another thing...

      Is DAB coverage going to be improved significantly over the next five years?

      Many people find they have a shite DAB signal in their home so don't bother with DAB.

      Most people who've bothered to install DAB in their cars stick with FM because it's impossible to travel very far without losing signal quality.

      We have one DAB set in our house. The DAB signal is just as good as FM, but the set remains on FM. Why? Because the stations we want aren't available on DAB. It's not like the stations concerned are obscure ones, one of them is the local BBC station and we only live a couple of miles from a humungous transmitter.

      I suspect that many people will find themselves in at least one of the above boats and there really is no point spending money on DAB receivers until those problems are sorted. Amusingly I have been told that all those problems will be sorted out after analogue is switched off, because there will be lots of spare bandwidth around then. Do the pro DAB lobby not see the problem there? They want us to spend money buying DAB receivers in order that they can switch off analogue in order to free up bandwidth to make DAB work properly.

      The problem with car radios is that you people are not going to pay a premium for DAB when they have to stick with FM for the next five years. Other than rolling out DAB properly the best solution would be to ensure that all cars sold are DAB equipped and all new head units are DAB equipped and for the government to pay the difference. My car came with an FM head unit included in the price or DAB/FM as a £130 option. If the government had paid that £130 I'd have happilly gone for the DAB option. Those converters are truly appalling, the quality is crap and they're a pain to use - nobody should have to use one.

      Likewise every other tuner around. The DAB unit that sits in our kitchen cost £30 or we could have had an FM equivalent for around a tenner. Were that £20 premium funded by people would go for it.

  9. Hate2Register

    Give all the FM stations channels on DAB.

    Give all the FM stations channels on DAB. Also the scrappage scheme can include a subsidy so that luddites (read Reg readers) can swap their crap FM radio for a nice little DAB set. And force mobile phone makers to put DAB into their handsets, instead of those crap FM chips.

    There you go, sorted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Poorer sound quality

      From wikipedia:

      "An "informal listening test" by Professor Sverre Holm has shown that for stationary listening the audio quality on DAB is lower than FM stereo, due to most stations using a bit rate of 128 kbit/s or less, with the MP2 audio codec, which requires 160 kbit/s to achieve perceived FM quality."

      So all of us Luddites should "upgrade" to get a poorer sound quality

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I do agree with you... I won't mind switch if I receive a blank check to replace my HF with DAB and also to replace by car radio with car DAB. And since is blank check perhaps I should consider buy an house to fit all my DAB stuf just in case needed.

    3. Jon Whiteoak
      Thumb Down


      I had a digital radio but when I moved house the reception was so apalling in our new place we had to go out and by an analogue radio. The DAB is sitting gathering dust somewhere, which is where this proposal from the Lords (talking of things gathering dust!) should be.

      All the best luddites read The Reg.

    4. Eponymous Cowherd

      Have you tried DAB in a car?

      Fucking awful doesn't even begin to describe it.

      Oh, and forget the idea of DAB in your smartphone. If you think battery life is crap now, it won't last an hour with a DAB receiver on. All the "crap FM radio" has to do is demodulate the FM signal and amplify it a bit, all very low power stuff. A DAB radio has to throw some considerable processing horsepower at the task of decoding and decompressing the DAB datastream. That costs power. Quite a lot of power.

      And then there's the fact that DAB is old technology (MP2) already superseded by DAB+ (AAC+ and Reed Solomon error correction), which does offer quality and robustness broadly similar to FM.

      We are merely being sold a pup so the Government can make a quick profit selling off the bandwidth.

      1. Fred Dibnah

        Er, yes I have

        and it's excellent - I can drive from my home on the Welsh border (which is not officially in the coverage area) to any point east without any break in programme on the two national DAB multiplexes. If you have a proper antenna, properly fitted, then reception is solid, and the MP2 sound quality is not an issue for in-car use. You are aware that for digital TV, Sky, VM and Freeview also use the MP2 codec for the majority of their services? It's not the codec that's the problem, it's the low bit rate chosen to squeeze large numbers of channels into the multiplexes.

        And I also have a phone (HTC Lobster) with a built in DAB receiver, which works for the whole day tuned in to Test Match Special. So no problem there either.

        Agreed that this is a stop gap, and agreed that DAB+ would be a better option. But the UK was first to air with DAB and many people have shelled out for DAB sets, so maybe we need the govt to buy all our FM and DAB radios from us so we can go and buy nice new DAB+ ones. So much for the environment.

    5. zebthecat

      As long you get DAB reception...

      ...which we don't. Nothing at - not even a 'glop'.

    6. david bates

      Thats a...

      fabulous idea...

      So thats 7 FM radios I use around my house, plus the one on my mobile, and the one on my MP3 player (both of which admittedly may be dead by the time this comes about) and the one in my car, which is integrated so cannot easily be swapped.

      The radio in my bathroom runs for about 6 months on 4 AA batteries (approx 1/2 play a day). I'll give you a toffee for every DAB radio you can find that will match that. I'll give you two toffees if any of them come in at the under £10 that that particular radio came in at.

      Its going to have to be a BLOODY good subsidy for it not to cost me hundreds to replace that lot...

    7. Markus Imhof

      Which of them?

      Ok, I'm not in britain, otherwise I'd have to ask: which of my half dozen or so FM radios will be subsidized in case of a replacement: the one in the stereo system in the living room, the one in the kitchen, the one in the compact system in the bedroom, the one in the mobile phone, the one lying in the bedside table, the one in the home office or the one in the garden shed? Just be glad I don't have a car.

      Fun aside: DAB is dead. This DAB is deceased. This is an ex-DAB.

      - For fixed (read home) entertainment, DAB has been overtaken by internet radio and/or youtube in combination with local WLAN (which is why I for one won't get a DAB replacement for any of the above FM receivers but rather a few comparatively cheap BT A2DP receivers that'll couple to my mobile phone, which in turn will connect via my local WLAN to my server or the internet).

      - For mobile pedestrian/bicycling entertainment, the ubiquitous MP3/... players offer better reception/audio quality than the simple receivers/antennas of portable radios can ever hope to achieve (yep, even for DAB).

      - For in-car entertainment, you have the choice of MP3, CD, DVD, reasonable FM radio (with a good diversity receiver, the only difference to DAB will be the (un)availability of local stations) or internet radio via UMTS (ok, the last one is still in the development stage, but if Google Earth is working reasonably well, the rest is just a matter of time).



    8. censored

      Crap FM?

      Have you heard the sound quality on the majority of DAB stations?

      128kbps (if you're lucky) MP2 does NOT make for hifi sound....

    9. Anonymous Coward

      I feel moved to express my views on your post through the medium of song

      (Moderato; with apologies to Flanders and Swann)

      Mud, mud, bubbling mud

      Nothing quite like it for boiling the blood

      So follow me, follow

      Down to the hollow

      And there let us wallow

      In bubbling mud!

      I thank you.

  10. Some Beggar

    Did you bother to read the report?

    Far from saying "Analogue radio must die" it actually says

    "for the foreseeable future, the Government will consider FM radio to be part of the broadcasting firmament"

    and discusses the future of local BBC and commercial FM stations and even AM stations.

    Perhaps you should just have posted a link to the report rather than writing an article that makes it sound like they're proposing to hang Wogan from Tower Bridge by his entrails and ship the cast of The Archers to Guantanamo bay.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Did you bother to read The Register?

      :: Perhaps you should just have posted a link to the report

      I did. Give the specs a rub with a clean cloth.

    2. JasonW

      Not all bad...

      Shipping the cast of the Archers to Guantanamo sounds like a step forward to me.

  11. rastansaga

    Tech might be good, but available radios are crap

    why are all DAB radios shaped like ugly bricks? I hunted high and low some years ago for a small battery powered device I could stick in my pocket and use to listen to 5live on the way to/from work, but nothing doing. In the end I got a regular AM/FM device.

    My 'brick shaped' alarm clock next to my bed does have DAB - and happily autoscans for new stations - but never seems to forget discontinued services. Endless 'service not detected' when changing channels.There's no 'reset' option in any of the menus and even turning it off for a weekend did nothing.

    Even more ridiculous is that the manual talks of 'no more hassle resetting the clock due to BST switches - we take the time from the DAB signal'. Great, but it doesn't do this automatically, you have to press more buttons to get it to rescan the time than you would need to nudge the hour backwards/forward manually.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I feel a warm glow when I read how in-touch the Lords and Commons actually are with the hoi-polloi.

    Maybe it's just me pissing myself laughing (when I'm not crying)

  13. Tom 7

    If I wanted to listen to a river gurgling

    I'll go to the river. I've tried a variety of DAB units and none of them work round here. If there's a give away of DAB radios its going to cost me a fortune in wobbly tables to make use of them.

  14. James Robertson 2

    fm is not crap

    I get great reception on my FM radio why would I want a digital radio. If it’s anything like freeview reception it will be a piece of crap, my ITV C4 channels are always breaking up cos they send it all on the same channel on freeview, why would I trust them with my radio.

    Not to mention the environmental cost of scrapping perfectly good radio’s for new digital ones.

  15. Eduard Coli
    Jobs Halo

    High fashon

    Beeb and the Lords should talk to Apples man as they seem to understand that what can not be dictated can be sometimes be made fashionable.

    Her majesty could be asked to be seen with a lovely DAB set, perhaps get her one for her birthday?

  16. EddieD

    I love my DAB

    Let's see, I've got a Pure, I've got a Roberts and I've got a Cowon D2+DAB. They are all dual devices, recieving FM/AM broadcasts too.

    When I went to visit my mother at Xmas, she was having problems with her old analog radio, so I popped down to Currys Digital and picked her up a cheap and cheerful own brand DAB, and showed her how the menu worked, and she, at 78, set up all her own channels, and loves it too.

    Okay, it's not all going to be rosy, there are going to be problems, but if we don't sit down and work out the solutions, we may as well just get the valves out again.

    Analog broadcast media belong in the past. DAB may not be the solution, and may well be superceded, but let's see, I've had a ZX80, Spectrum, C64, Atari ST, Mac (Classic), Dos PCs, Windows 9x pcs, XP PCs, Mac OS X boxes. I now have a Mac running Snow Leopard and a PC running Win 7. I had a CRT SD Telly, bought a CRT widescreen telly, bought an HD capable telly, then an HD ready telly, and then an HD capable receiver to go with my HD ready Telly.

    Technology brings change. You lot can put on your slippers, and sit in front of the fire, listening to the Light Program on the Wireless.

    I've got better things to do. And listen to.

    1. hplasm
      Paris Hilton

      Good for You

      But what new shiny thing will you buy when DAB ain't sexy no more?

    2. Nebulo
      Thumb Down

      Technology brings change? Ha!

      Those of us who read the Reg know very well that change != improvement.

      Weak signal performance: AM noisy, FM noisy, DAB shite.

      Audio quality: AM comms quality, FM hi-fi quality, DAB shite.

      Battery life if you want it portable: AM outstanding, FM very good, DAB non-existent.

      Now back to listening to my FM radio, at hi-fi quality, while I still can.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Alright for you

      Do you live in a major urban area by any chance? My FM reception is crap enough- DAB is only worse. It may be fine if you live in Twickenham, but contrary to popular opinion not everyone lives in a major conurbation in the South-East. Even then, if you live in an old terraced house with thick walls, the best you'll get in your kitchen is something that sounds like 16kbit/s Real Player.

      And as for your "technology brings change" argument- it sounds a bit like you want technology for it's own sake- I'm all for new technology if it's better, but in this case it simply isn't.

  17. John Dougald McCallum

    Radio Scrapage?

    If the Gobment is going to do this it will cost them a very large sum of money.I for one have about £800 worth of radios in one form or another AND I will want a like for like trade IE the CD player is one that I can load with 25 CDs so ther is one that they will find expensive.

    If the powers that be want us to listen to DAB then put programes on it that people want to listen to .

  18. FaustiesBlog

    The reason is RFID

    Katherine Albrecht (author of Spychips) has identified the reason. Analog frequencies are to be used in RFID chips, which corporations (such as Walmart, Asda, Gillettes, etc.) are embedding into their wares. They are selling these frequencies to the corporations.

    There is to be an "Internet of things", where absolutely everything, including sewing needles, will be chipped so that they can be trackable by anyone interested in finding out more about you.

    Lovely, eh?

  19. Allicorn
    Thumb Down


    They have "digital" on radios now?

  20. MJI Silver badge

    So impractical

    I would just give up radio.

    Unless someone produces a Minidisc head unit with Sony CD changer control.

    And gives it to me for free.


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