As a journalist
interested in news stories, I guess I should be grateful for the whole DAB
saga and the threats of FM radio switch off, as the topic has kept me in
stories since at least 1998, and still shows no sign of reaching any sort of
conclusion. Some idea of the political chicanery surrounding the whole mess is
found in Robert Sindenís feature starting on page 11, but the implications
for us, as the PB consumers, are equally exasperating.
A decade or so back I bought myself an FM-only Magnum
Dynalab tuner. I half expected it would become redundant within five or so
years, as the DAB steamroller was well under way, but part of me couldnít
really believe that any government would be stupid or vainglorious enough to
switch off the FM network. Ten years on I can look back with a degree of smug
satisfaction, that the purchase has been thoroughly worthwhile, and could well
continue giving fine service for another decade.
I love radio, but only ever really listen regularly to the
BBCís Radios 3 and 4. DAB does occasionally come in handy for excursions
into 5 Live, but the various TV platforms and the internet cover the same
ground these days, and actually do a rather better job.
DAB was always on a losing streak, because it got locked in
to a very early form of digital compression, with no way of changing to keep
up with the march of progress, which as anyone who uses a computer these days
will know has been rapid and inexorable.
At the same time, FM radio still has a great deal on
its side from so many points of view, it seems quite ridiculous to contemplate
switching it off. And although I donít have the stats to prove it, I reckon
far more FM than DAB radios are actually currently being made in one form or
another. I daresay that very few actual hi-fi FM tuners are sold these days,
but nearly all cars and mobile phones come complete with built-in FM tuners.
And of course thereís a vast population of existing tuners, table radios,
clock radios and so on that continue to work perfectly well, many years after
they were originally made. Indeed, sitting beside my bed is a Hacker Sovereign
that must be at least fifty years old, yet it still provides
excellent service and rather impressive sound quality, and is used nearly
every day. The crucial factor that those who decided we all wanted digital
radio overlooked was that, unlike TV sets, cassette decks, CD players and
(especially) computers, old radios simply donít die or even become
obsolescent. They have no moving parts and simply carry on more or less
forever. Letís just hope that theyíre allowed to.
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