Our Nations’ Watchdogs

The UK’s Grant Goddard recently skewered the DAB radio fans in the government in this post, opening up with the following:

Ofcom quietly published its first Digital Radio Progress Report in July 2010, without fanfare or a press release. This report has been a remarkably long time coming, given that DAB radio has been with us more than a decade. During that time, Ofcom has published 26 Digital Television Progress Reports, starting in 2003.

Here was an opportunity for Ofcom to demonstrate that it is acting in the public interest by publishing solid, objective data about the progress of digital radio in the UK. Did it take that opportunity? No. Instead, Ofcom published a set of data that are so selective and so distorted that they misrepresent the progress (or lack of it) made to date in advancing the UK towards the ‘digital radio switchover’ that our government is determined to execute. Why? Because Ofcom (like the government’s DCMS department) seems determined to persuade us that its totally unrealistic plan for DAB radio has not been an unmitigated disaster with the citizen/consumers on whose behalf it is supposed to be working.

Then Grant proceeds to shred the “evidence” presented in the report, finishing with this:

Given that Ofcom has had the luxury of several years to prepare this first Digital Radio Progress Report, the result is a travesty. It should not be the regulator’s role to selectively highlight and distort data that support its own policies in a document specifically requested by government in order to inform a parliamentary decision on digital radio switchover. We deserve better from our public servants. Otherwise, they might as well go and work for Digital Radio UK, the lobby group (funded by commercial interests and the BBC) busy pumping out propaganda to try and persuade consumers that they need DAB radio.

In other related news across the pond, the BBC News Magazine website here has a long piece on DAB, the UK’s version of HD radio, and Grant is quoted extensively throughout. Some of the harshest criticisms of the digital dump can be found in the commenters, who sound off as follows:

The biggest problem with DAB is coverage and I don’t mean just remote parts of the UK. Even in Birmingham, which I visit regularly to visit relatives, has a number of black spots where you just can’t pick up a DAB signal. Improve it to 92%? No, that’s not good enough! Concentrate on getting transmitters sorted out and you will get your popularity tipping point much, much sooner. —Irene Paulton, St Andrews

We have two digital radios in our home, one portable and one as part of our sound set up. However, I still prefer to listen via FM or AM because the quality and reliability is so much better. Digital reception seems to depend on the weather, where the radio is positioned, the time of day etc. In other words it is totally unreliable and until it improves I will be sticking with non-digital. I trust that medium and long wave will still be available until the entire population is able to receive digital in a less irritating manner! Test match special is a particular favourite which I would be deeply saddened to lose. —Ann Young, Baldock, UK

I personally have found DAB to be a great disappointment. The design of the receivers leaves me cold and I cannot get any reception in my home. I regularly either cannot pick up any stations or receive very loud static noise. Fortunately, the DAB radio I received as a gift (I would never have bought one) has a FM option and I use this instead. Until the reception issues are resolved and manufacturers hire some decent product designers, I cannot see DAB taking a hold in the UK. —Lousie, Worthing
It’s interesting that in England, the major internet news organizations — the BBC and The Guardian, for instance, who make extensive use of Grant’s expertise — are involved in investigating the digital scam, and the Parliament itself sought out his input. Here in the states, the only interest shown by the media or government at all is by FCC functionaries, who can never seem to find enough digital derrière to kiss.
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One Response

  1. DAB requires newly allocated spectrum, unlike HD Radio/IBOC. Besides not wanting the smaller broadcasters on the same footing with the big boys in a US version of DAB, big group radio decided to force the FCC to go with IBOC. Struble’s hopes are to force IBOC adoption through the slow destruction of analog, with various stages of IBOC power increases. Watch — in a couple of years the IBOC proponents will claim that the -14db/-10db FM-HD power increase was not enough.

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