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cancel FM and AM radio switchoff

Comment 8th July 2010

The Communications Minister Ed Vaizey says that "listeners need to be persuaded that the quality (of Digital Radio) is high, Digital Radio is affordable and the quality is as good as FM"

This seems to be the same attitude as the last government; i.e. if the public don't want it, the public are wrong, so they must be persuaded. Well it is Mr Vaizey that must be persuaded, that is what many of us are trying to do. Here are the arguments:

1. He says that "Digtal Radio is a huge opportunity…" Well, no. Digital Radio WAS a huge opportunity 25 years ago when it was intruduced (first with test transmissions in the Midlands). Now we have the prospect of Radio 6 Music, one of the few digital only stations, being closed down.

2. The quality is as good as FM. Wrong. The quality has the potential to be better than FM, but the bit rate is variable, and often restricted in order to accomodate more stations. Pre-emphesis and companding used on FM is also used in digital transmission.

3. The FM transmissions run in parallel with digital radio would require no seperate distribution system, the same distribution feeds both at the same transmitter sites, as it does at the moment. Only continued maintenance revenue for already exitisting FM transmitters would be needed. The cost of this is less than the extra battery current required by every portable receiver, of which there are tens of thousands per transmitter.

4. Not only do car radios need to be replaced, as in recent publicity, but many Hi-Fi enthusiasts have the FM tuner integral to their music system. Buying a portable is not an option, enthusiasts want to reproduce the signal; through their quality loudspeakers. Also the substitution of a digital tuner for an FM one is not simple in such a system.

5. For television, analogue closure was necessary to allow the full power digital transmissions in all areas in the same transmission bands (bands IV and V). The FM band II is not required for digital use because the digital band is seperate.

6  If you want a government which allows people choice, why not have FM and Digital both available, and let the listeners choose. The cost of continuing an already existing FM transmitter in a given area (paid for by the listener through the television lisence fee) will be less than the ongoing cost of extra batteries for digital receivers. (also paid for by the listener).

7. Have you actually listened to a digital receiver, such as the Gemini, and compared the quality to reasonable size stereo speakers (such as the LS3/5A by Rogers, a BBC design, commercially available)? I think if committee had done this in an A-B test, you would stop saying that Digital is as good as FM. One has to consider the whole system and what comes out in the listeners' room.

8.  Radio 4 Long Wave is valued by many sports listeners, particularily for Test Match Special. The last time its closure was proposed there was a demonstration march to Broadcasting House.

9. What will happen to digital services in a serious national emergency, when radio is the only means of contacting the people? AM receivers are small, simple, and can be used almost anywhere with an internal ferrite rod aerial.

                                         thanks for the opportunity to give my opinion,

                                                           Colin Pierpoint

Why does this matter?

Because the coalition government are using the switch off to force people to change to digital receivers. A simple continued small revenue will allow choice by the individual. In fact, many listeners may use both in different locations, as appropriate. There is no reason why the radio manufacturers cannot continue to market Digital and FM receivers. Some models already have both facilities.

FM transmitters can be compact and operate independently of a multiplex, ideal for small community stations on low power. For many independent Local Radio stations the cost of re-equipping is prohibitive. Temporary FM stations can be easily set up for special events (and have been).

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