Not only has Ed Vaizey satisfied nobody by again failing to address the "digital switchover date" question but the government continues to conflate "digital radio" with the original DAB specification.
The DAB system we are using was defined in the 1980s - before the Internet! There are many better digital radio solutions now available but the big groups, and many listeners, have invested so heavily in DAB that they are not keen to change technology this late in the day (not even to DAB+).
Earlier in this blog I've detailed the other issues which are not being addressed, here are a few in no particular order:
- It is not good enough to talk about all new radios sold being DAB without explaining how ALL the stations currently available on AM, FM and the web could be affordably carried on DAB.
- Why push ahead with a technology which, as presently licensed - even with national D2, can carry fewer stations than the previous analogue system?
- What other digital media technology offers a restricted range of content compared with the analogue system it replaced? Small independents or big studios can equally now make their output available digitally on CD, DVD and the internet. Digital technology has enabled a huge blossoming of new media producers. In UK radio only the big operators will control access to DAB.
- What progress does the government want to see on "DAB-lite" for smaller local and community services? Or using DRM or HD Radio on medium wave or VHF frequencies?
- If digital is the way forward (and I very much agree it is) how can it be acceptable to say that new smaller operators should remain satisfied with traditional FM? It's like telling independent record labels or film makers that they would have to continue with vinyl discs or VHS cassettes!
- Unlike the situation with terrestrial television, where it was necessary to clear the UHF bands of analogue signals in order to carry more and better digital services, there is no technical imperative to have a fixed switch-over date for DAB radio. DAB uses different frequencies so the FM signals do not have to stop. The pressure for a date is driven only by economic considerations.