Is there a future for digital terrestrial radio in the UK?
There’s been a lot of chat in recent years about DAB. About the growth or lack of growth and about analogue switch-off in the same way analogue TV was switched off.
We have 5 DAB radios here, and terrestrial radio has become a DAB thing for us. Mainly because there are more BBC channels on DAB.
But not in the car. Digital is useless in a car, even though it’s being fitted as standard these days.
I recently replaced two devices in the dining room—an old DAB radio and an old iPod player—with one new DAB radio. It has an audio input so we can play phones and music players through the radio. Then we noticed something very odd.
For those of you outside the UK, iPlayer Radio is a BBC app that streams BBC radio. So you might think it’s like DAB but it isn’t. It’s better. It streams all the UK BBC stations (Radio Ulster, Radio Scotland and Radio Cymru) and you can’t get Radio Scotland on a DAB player in most of England.
Now, that’s a small thing. And if you don’t care about the provinces it’s irrelevant to you. But it makes me wonder why I have a DAB radio. Except as an amp for the Internet.
An iPod plugged into the DAB radio can stream KGSR or WRIR from the USA. It can stream more BBC stations than DAB can. And any other radio station or web site online. The only place that isn’t practical is in the car (mobile data is too expensive at the moment). And DAB doesn’t work in the car anyway. So why have I got any DAB radios at all?
And why does the government want us to have DAB radios? We’re not daft, mostly.
As a terrestrial radio solution FM beats DAB hands down. It works everywhere and it works in the car. More often than not it sounds far better than DAB and a portable FM radio can run for weeks on one set of batteries. So that’s another reason DAB doesn’t move us forward.
For broadcasters the Internet is far cheaper than setting up a DAB station. Supply or demand, I can’t see a compelling argument for DAB either way. As a BBC listener I can’t see a compelling argument and as a driver DAB is simply irrelevant.
Increasingly music comes to us online: YouTube, cloud players, streaming stations and players. Time-shifting apps enable us to catch up online. If there was a neat, economic solution I would ditch all our DAB radios and simply plug in Wi-Fi players as needed.
The radio station structure locked inside the DAB box looks utterly pointless.