Digital Radio or FM?

By: A.C.

At the office of AAD the other day, I was discussing the relative merits of our local radio stations and the BBC output.

Like many disabled, or elderly people, I like my radio, and tend to listen to speech radio programmes, at home or in the car.

I have been aware of the gradual change in the switch –off the analogue signal (FM to you and me) and replacing it with Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) and the multitude of radio stations now available on Freeview via the television.

I have a small portable DAB radio but it is unreliable in that some days I get a signal and others it just will not connect and I have to change it back to FM reception.

Then today ( 12/12/2013) the BBC reported that analogue radio, was to be switched off, and followed this up with a TV report on a chap who was protesting because he could not get DAB. .

It would seem that there is no need to panic, and certainly not replace any AM/FM radios until you know that DAB can be received where you stay.

There is no doubt that the clarity offered by DAB is excellent for those whose hearing is dulled, as it has no hiss or crackle.

What about my car though? It is a relatively new car about two years old, and it only has a FM and AM built –in radio. Will I lose my radio in the car? It would seem that the in–built FM radio in my phone would be a casualty as well.

I went searching online for answers, and it would seem that there is great resistance by the consumer, to change to DAB. Car manufacturers are reluctant to fit DAB radios as standard, and at the moment most will only fit them as optional extras.

The original timetable for changeover was 2015, but that looks increasingly unlikely as the DAB signal is not available in many places, and surprisingly, being in a city can mean an unreliable signal. More transmitters would have to be built to cover these radio “ black holes” .

There are places in Scotland where TV, and radio reception of any kind is still and always will be a problem.

This is a podcast from BBC Radio Four in November 2012, on the looming switchover.

The Westminster Government stepped back from announcing a timetable on Monday 16 December regarding when the analogue signal is to be switched off nationwide.

Instead, the Government reaffirmed that the criteria for setting a date for digital radio switchover are now as follows:

  • Digital listening share to reach 50% of all listening hours
  • When local commercial and national DAB coverage reaches FM equivalence
  • Significant progress on conversion of cars to digital radio

Only then will a date be set.


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