digital radio

cubpilot
28th July 2009, 16:00
would i be right in thinkng that if the uk and i presume the rest of the eu head towards all digital radio services that in 10 or 20 years it will no longer be possible to listen to anything that is not specifically aimed at the local audience. if this is so then we are heading towards a very isolationist situation and something that politicians can exploit, propaganda wise.

Shipbuilder
28th July 2009, 18:57
It may happen eventually, but I think it will take a lot longer than the "experts" think. Not because of the technology though. They have already tried to introduce digital radio and it was not much of a success because they didn't sell very well. I can't see local radio stations wanting to change all their AM and FM equipment either - Who pays?

When I first went to sea in early 1961, I was assured that ship's radio officers would be gone within five or six years. I believed them, but didn't care because my first trip was awful. Then I got to like it and only left after 32 years for no other reason that I had finally got fed up of it and R/Os still carried on at sea for a few years after that!

Even if they do get rid of AM and FM by legal means, I can see a lot of "pirate" radio stations springing up all over the place.

Bet nothing happens for years and years.

Bob

ddraigmor
28th July 2009, 19:15
I have DAB - Digital Audio Broadcasting. I get ten stations on my hi fi and 8 on my portable - despite them being across the room from each other. I also get AM and FM.

Freeview adds to my TV channels.....

....but in a good rainfall the signal goes crackers with lots of cutting out. The TV just freezes......and yes, I have a proper antenna!

....and this is the future of TV and radio?

Jonty

Quiney
28th July 2009, 19:30
And they might as well do away with the pips/chimes of Big Ben, because the inherent delay with digital means that they will no longer be accurate.
And this is progress!

King Ratt
28th July 2009, 22:05
Don't expect progress with a Labour government.

BobDixon
29th July 2009, 02:40
would i be right in thinkng that if the uk and i presume the rest of the eu head towards all digital radio services that in 10 or 20 years it will no longer be possible to listen to anything that is not specifically aimed at the local audience. if this is so then we are heading towards a very isolationist situation and something that politicians can exploit, propaganda wise.

Not all of Europe is singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to digital, so we could be heading for incompatibility - which is not was the EU is supposed to be about !! The US is away with another VHF digital system. And DRM could also be implemented on VHF as well as MW/SW/LW. Then there's the possibility of mobile satellite - and the impacy of mobile Internet. It's also claimed that the existing DAB will be replaced by DAB+. Things are moving so fast nowadays that it might be the broadcasters and Ofcom can't keep up!

Also, in the UK it's the BBC and commercial bods who may be forced onto digital only in the first instance - and the commercials are getting less local all the time, operating in large networks. Very local stations (small commercial and community stations) will remain on FM or AM.

Then, of course, there will be all those redundant FM and AM receivers that we all own, just waiting for a high power European broadcaster to reinvent the Big L or Atlantic 252 for UK listeners !

BobDixon
29th July 2009, 02:43
Just received the following by e-mail:-

from newsletter@digitalradiotech.co.uk
date 29 July 2009 01:29
subject The BBC Trust should hold a consultation on FM switch-off

Sir Michael Lyons, the Chairman of the BBC Trust that regulates the BBC, will be appearing on Feedback on Radio 4 this coming weekend to answer questions from a panel of listeners, and Feedback has asked people who would like to be on the listener panel to send questions into Feedback - their email address is feedback@bbc.co.uk.

I think the most constructive thing people could do at the moment is to ask the BBC Trust to hold a public consultation on the issue of the BBC's FM stations being switched off. But whether you plan to send a question into Feedback or not, I would strongly urge people to email the BBC Trust anyway and ask it to hold a public consultation on the matter. You can ask the BBC Trust to do this by emailing them at trust.enquiries@bbc.co.uk.

In the BBC Trust's own words, it says that it "works for the public which owns and pays for the BBC", and that it will consult with the public “when there has been a proposal for a ... significant change to an existing service”. You don’t get much more significant a change to the FM service than proposing to switch it off, so the public deserves to be consulted about this issue.

On each occasion that FM switch-off was discussed on Radio 4 programmes in the week following the announcement, the presenters said that they'd received an overwhelming number of messages from listeners and that people were almost unanimously opposed to the plans. Furthermore, when Ofcom conducted a market research survey a couple of years ago, over 90% of people said that they were very satisfied with what they received on the radio, and of course the vast majority of people that took part in the survey will listen via FM/AM. And DAB has been selling incredibly badly in the shops -- this led to the BBC's Director of Radio, Tim Davie, admitting back in April that digital radio switchover "may not happen in our lifetime" precisely because of DAB's dismal sales figures (see: http://tinyurl.com/m8qs9o).

How much evidence do they need before they realise that the public doesn't want to switch to DAB? And why on earth do they think that the answer to DAB being unpopular is to force the public to adopt it??

In addition to asking whether people are in favour of FM being switched off, the public also deserves to be asked whether they think it's acceptable for DAB to replace FM even though DAB provides far lower audio quality than FM. The one and only time that the BBC has consulted the public about digital radio was in the public consultation for the BBC's five digital-only stationsback in 2000. Yet in that consultation the BBC deliberately chose not to mention that the addition the five new stations to the BBC's national DAB multiplex would result in the audio quality being drastically degraded. They didn't admit the truth because they knew that if they did then the public would have told them where to stick their digital stations.

And the BBC has acted in a similarly dishonest fashion over the subject of FM switch-off, because it was the BBC and commercial radio that recommended (in the Digital Radio Working Group (DRWG) final report) to Government that an early FM switch off date should be set, and the Government merely granted the broadcasters' wishes. The BBC should obviously have consulted with the public about something as important as this before recommending that Government should set a switch-off date, but the reason they didn't do that was, once again, because they knew that the public would be opposed to their plans.

However, the BBC Trust is a separate entity to the BBC, and the Trust's main job is to represent the interests of the public, so you would expect that they would hold a consultation on a matter as important as this, and I would strongly urge people to ask them to do so by emailing the BBC Trust at trust.enquiries@bbc.co.uk.

Steve

5TT
29th July 2009, 06:13
Then, of course, there will be all those redundant FM and AM receivers that we all own, just waiting for a high power European broadcaster to reinvent the Big L or Atlantic 252 for UK listeners !

There's a big red ship around there somewhere with a 50kw Ampliphase transmitter on board, could be time to drag that back out :-)

Ron Stringer
29th July 2009, 11:50
There is nothing inherently wrong with DAB, if properly implemented it can provide a good system. What causes problems in the UK is the version selected and the manner in which it has been employed. The reduced bit rate and the limited number of transmitters has limited broadcast quality and coverage so the service provided is inferior to the existing FM broadcast service. When you add the higher complexity and power consumption of DAB receivers to those disadvantages, the user is faced with junking his existing equipment and buying a more expensive product that offers limited battery life, inferior sound quality and restricted geographical coverage. No wonder there is user opposition.

The perceived benefits, such as release of broadcast frequency spectrum - which can be sold off profitably to other potential users or reallocated to many small local services - and the creation of a whole new market for DAB radios, are attractive to the Treasury and manufacturers.

On the face of it, the listeners face a lose-lose situation - they lose the sizable benefits of their low-cost receivers and access to an average/good sound quality service available virtually country-wide, that they have already paid for, only to have to replace them with much more expensive kit that produces inferior results and can only work in certain parts of the country. It is understandable that opinion poll results are not in favour of the change.

mikeg
29th July 2009, 12:43
What about the landfill when all those millions of FM radios are dumped, hardly a green agenda. To my mind its more about releasing spectrum for sale at the best price the Govt can get - a huge boost for the Treasuries coffers. I agree that it is indeed a lose-lose situation for the listener in far to many ways.


http://www.digitalradiotech.co.uk/index.htm

cubpilot
29th July 2009, 12:53
most enlightening replies, i am an engineer not a sparkie so was not at all sure what is going on technically. i do though feel that in the last 10-15 years that the officialdom is heading more and more towards manipulating information to suit their own agenda and not that which is for the good of general public. i have lots of aviation friends all over europe and hear similar stories from them, most to to with aviation matters but the general consensus is one of dislike for the way in which the eu has been hijacked by the few. I fear that part of the agenda is to prevent communication by the man in the street being able to tune into a station from france, spain germany etc. going the other way, the dutch on the west coast of holland have been able to receive uk tv but i suspect the change to digital will elliminate that. plus they cannot download uk tv on the internet.

treeve
29th July 2009, 21:26
There is a lot of talk about quality in audio for radio broadcasts; myself, as long as it is stable and clear, that is enough, surely? - if I want to hear good music at best quality, I go to a concert or play a CD/DVD. Was a time when I listened to radio stations all over the world, it gave me a broad spectrum of news, events, opinions, politics, culture, etc, etc ... and it was full of blips, squeaks, howls, interference. Content was what mattered. The end of this proposed pipeline has started with the news that is broadcast now ... biased, opinionated and definitely vetted. The culture sounds as if it has been pumped through a mincer and sounds as good as the visual effects ...
We are being washed into believing that this is the best possible entertainment and information in this, the best of all possible worlds.

mikeg
30th July 2009, 15:51
There is a lot of talk about quality in audio for radio broadcasts; myself, as long as it is stable and clear, that is enough, surely? - if I want to hear good music at best quality, I go to a concert or play a CD/DVD. <Clip>

I disagree. In days gone by you had to put up with less than adequate sound quality because that was the technology of back then. Things have now moved on enormously therefore good radio sound quality should be available to all at low cost. Why not have the best of both worlds, go to the concert and relive that experience at home via radio, CD, DVD, HD. In a world where we now have Blueray, HDTV etc why should we compromise on radio sound quality.
UK digital radio is a perfect example of why not - the ever lower bitrate makes music edgy and very irritating to listen to longterm. It was stated earlier that there is nothing inherently wrong with digital radio providing its implemented properly - unfortunately the UK settled on outmoded technology with low bitrates. I much prefer FM to digital because its listenable to.

charles henry
30th July 2009, 16:01
The main reason for switching to digital is to save spectrum. In the US they have already switched to digital TV, I purchased a $40- box which performs the necessary functions for me to continue to watch US TV on my analogue receiver. Canadian TV will be switching to digital shortly.

Am not sure what bandwidth a "normal" tv transmission takes but a digital
one uses 45Mb stream. When I worked I was in the microwave radio business and when we were delivering TV signals we invariably converted to digital and for ease of transmission and bandwidth usage and then "recovered" them to normal when they were delivered to the requisite broadcasting station. The actual audio remained a standard sub carrier throughout the process

The switch will no doubt cost some money but it would appear that everyone is afraid of the great unknown, dont worry - it works ok.
de chas

Ron Stringer
30th July 2009, 20:04
Charles,

Digital TVs have been available in the UK for several years, probably over a decade. Mine is nearly 7 years old and I am definitely not an early-adopter. People are not afraid of the technology, it has been around for yonks and is widely adopted. The TV broadcast quality is fine. Over much of the country analogue TV broadcasts have ceased and digital TV reigns; the conversion will be completed countrywide in 2012. That is not a problem either.

When it comes to radio, however, in order to conserve bandwidth, the UK broadcasts are at a low bitrate, resulting in crap sound quality only marginally better than AM. When the country has enjoyed reasonable quality sound via FM for almost 40 years, it comes hard to step back in time and quality. The $20 dollar portable that you could slip in a pocket or backpack will be no more - the DAB equivalent is >$150 and has a battery life of a few hours rather than weeks. In every way the user loses out. Hence the objections.

charles henry
31st July 2009, 16:56
Charles,

Digital TVs have been available in the UK for several years, probably over a decade. Mine is nearly 7 years old and I am definitely not an early-adopter. People are not afraid of the technology, it has been around for yonks and is widely adopted. The TV broadcast quality is fine. Over much of the country analogue TV broadcasts have ceased and digital TV reigns; the conversion will be completed countrywide in 2012. That is not a problem either.

When it comes to radio, however, in order to conserve bandwidth, the UK broadcasts are at a low bitrate, resulting in crap sound quality only marginally better than AM. When the country has enjoyed reasonable quality sound via FM for almost 40 years, it comes hard to step back in time and quality. The $20 dollar portable that you could slip in a pocket or backpack will be no more - the DAB equivalent is >$150 and has a battery life of a few hours rather than weeks. In every way the user loses out. Hence the objections.

OK Ron now I am on board and understand the issue, wasnt really apparent before. Guess in future I will try to understnd the issue better before I put my oar in..,.
regards chas

Shipbuilder
31st July 2009, 20:20
The only thing that bothers me if Europe goes digital is the fact that there will be no AM signals to pick up on the numerous little valve radios that I design and build from time to time. I know that Short Waves will contine to be OK for AM, but I still like MW broadcasts.
However, I am supremely confident that the plans of the "digital stormtroopers" will fall on "stony ground!" Nothing will come of it for many years - just you wait and see!
Bob

mikeg
31st July 2009, 23:13
I'm sure there will be a lot of illegal AM transmitters by equally keen listeners to fill that void.... shhhh it's the AM underground movement(Jester)

5TT
2nd August 2009, 05:38
I'm sure there will be a lot of illegal AM transmitters by equally keen listeners to fill that void....

There sure were a lot of those about in the '70s when I still lived there, might have even had a little dabble meself :-)

docgk
3rd August 2009, 14:22
DRM - remember these three letters. They stand for Digital Radio Mondiale. DRM is very very likely to take over on Medium wave and on HF. The BBC has carried out experiments for the World Service European and World wide services. There are plenty of countries worldwide carrying out experiments and some already committed, with full time transmission. DRM is a digital radio technology suitable for worldwide communication because it uses technology and modes that are good performers in the presence of fading and or propagation issues. It has the tremendous advantage that it has two main modes, ordinary AM replacement ( same bandwidth ( 9KHz), AND multimedia mode where still pictures can illustrate radio.( 18KHz bandwidth). To find out more start with these two links:
http://www.drmradio.co.uk
http://www.drm.org

The UK choice of DAB was premature as it seems that DRM can do so much more and
thus needed to be looked at seriously.... I can foresee europe dumping DAB and going DRM. Software receivers are already available from the Fraunhofer Institute so keen persons can adapt the output from an HF receiver and drive into the sound card on a computer in order to listen to the HF broadcasts that are already going on. I understand that radio chips also exist, so we might soon see receivers in the shops.
If DRM fully succeeds we will still be able to listen to the world as before, so don't despair!

BobDixon
4th August 2009, 03:53
The UK choice of DAB was premature as it seems that DRM can do so much more

While it's true that DRM could easily be used on VHF (as well as MF and HF) the French are currently proposing DMB for their VHF digital system while in the USA they are adopting HD Radio where digital programming can sit on top of an existing FM station !!

Long way to go in the story of digital I think !