The Upgrade to DAB Digital Radio

We’ve all heard a lot about DAB over the last few years, and especially recently with the introduction of the Digital Economy Act 2010.

Earlier this week, the coalition government confirmed that it will continue to go ahead with plans for the analogue radio switchover, which were put in place by the previous government.

As I have said before, the ‘ultra-local’ community and RSL radio stations will be able to occupy the FM space vacated by the larger radio stations, so Corinium Radio will not need to find funding to broadcast on digital radio (where is Corinium Radio going to find the £50000 deposit from anyway)?

BBC Announcement…

The BBC made an announcement earlier this week as well; according to RadioToday, the BBC Director of Audio and Music (Tim Davie) has announced a range of measured to support DAB – including the launch of 61 new transmitters.

The BBC’s new 61 DAB transmitters, which will be installed by the middle of next year will:

  • Increase the BBC’s in-home coverage to at least 92% of the UK population (from approx 85% currently)
  • Provide good in-car coverage for around 93% of the UK’s motorway network (from 83% today)
  • Include four new transmitters to achieve FM-equivalent coverage level of around 99% population and road coverage within the M25 (from around 89% today)
    BBC to Launch 61 New DAB TXs

There are also plans to improve ties between some of the UK’s national digital radio stations, including re-branding of BBC Radio 7 as BBC Radio 4 Extra. This is actually quite sensible. One of the reasons why the BBC digital radio stations have lower listener numbers than their older analogue friends is that most radio listeners are loyal to one single radio station or brand.

And when I’ve mentioned it in the past, a lot of people tell me they’ve never even heard of Radio 7; but most of them have heard (if not listened) to Radio 4. So linking two radio stations with the Radio 4 brand would make them both, as well as that brand, stronger.

Listening Figures…

I read a post on Matt Deegan’s blog yesterday evening. He works for Folder Media (which owns MuxCo, who are working to get local radio stations in Gloucestershire and beyond on to DAB by Spring 2011).

I know that DAB does get criticized sometimes, not everyone likes the sound quality, for example. They perhaps think that Internet radio is superior.

Yet as Matt points out in his post about the digital radio upgrade, Internet radio listening accounts for only 2.9% of radio listening in the UK, compared to DAB which provides 15.1%.

In other words it’s a platform that can reach the most people in the UK, offers unlimited choice, is supported by every radio station and broadcasts at excellent audio quality (all the things that people say DAB needs) but still provides little UK radio listening.

Matt Deegan
Digital Upgrade: Where Do You Stand?

My Personal Opinion…

Despite broadcasting on a radio station which doesn’t have the money or technical resources to broadcast on DAB, I am in support of the digital radio switchover.

I can see a display which tells me the name of the station. Its a little bit like RDS which I get in Mum’s car. But depending on what settings I select, the display can also tell me a bit about what I’m listening to; the date and time and signal strength!

Now… at the moment the only ‘local’ services I can receive (for now) are the ones based in the neigbouring county, on the NOW Swindon multiplex. But once the MuxCo Gloucestershire multiplex launches, hopefully before Spring 2011, there will be even more stations to choose from!

The sound quality may not be as good as an online stream, but then my computer has very good speakers attached to it, compared to my radio which is one of the cheaper versions. But unlike AM, it is listenable, and I wouldn’t be disappointed with that sort of sound quality on an FM radio.

Now Its Your Turn…

What do you think of the digital radio switchover? E-mail me on, or leave your comments in the form below.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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