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September 1, 2014

Positive outcome for Digital Radio pilot

The Government is hailing a recent digital radio test as a success, saying listeners who are in a good coverage area love digital radio.

Ninety-two per cent of listeners in the Go Digital Trial report said they were highly satisfied with their digital radios.

Four in five preferred it to analogue and would strongly recommend digital radio to other people. Listeners in the Bath digital radio pilot listened to more radio overall, enjoyed finding the additional stations on digital radio and found the DAB digital radios easy to use.

They also said they needed to know about costs and how to convert their car, and recommended that Government should provide information about digital radio and the switchover, similar to communications they had seen about the digital TV switchover, as well as providing assistance for vulnerable groups.

Out of the older and disabled people in the experiment, three quarters found the DAB radios easier to use than expected, but some required help from friends and family to set them up.

Seven in ten of this group said that digital radio was better than analogue. A small sample also had their cars converted with nearly all confident about using their digital radios but a few cited reception issues when driving.

The controlled digital radio switchover pilot was overseen by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and was run by independent research company Ipsos/MORI. It involved the full conversion of 237 households in Bath to digital radio and documented their experience over a 6-week period. This pilot took place in Bath in February and March 2013 and was similar to a digital TV household research pilot conducted 10 years ago in Bolton, prior to digital TV switchover.

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Here are the quotes:

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, says: “Digital is the future for radio in the UK and the Go Digital pilot shows that when households convert to digital radio and they are in an area of good coverage, they really love the digital quality sound and the extra stations.”

Ashley Tabor, Founder & Executive President, Global Radio, said “Global Radio is committed to a digital future for radio. This pilot shows how important it is to increase local DAB coverage so that all listeners can enjoy the excellent range of local stations on DAB such as Heart and Capital, as well as national stations like Classic FM.”

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC Radio, says: “It was very pleasing to see that listeners in the digital radio pilot in Bath were listening to more radio and enjoyed finding the extra digital radio stations including BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 4 Extra.”

Don Foster, MP for Bath, says: “Bath has a great choice of stations on digital radio and it was fantastic for the city to be selected as the Government’s Go Digital pilot location. I am delighted to hear that the people of Bath liked their digital radios and it’s great to know they’d recommend digital radio to others. Radio remains an ever popular medium for people of all ages and the pilot showed that many found new digital stations to enjoy.”

Dee Ford, Group MD, Radio at Bauer Media, says: “The Government pilot is good news and confirms that digital radio is simply better radio, and that all age groups love the choice of digital stations. It was particularly pleasing to see younger listeners actively engaging with digital radio and finding digital stations such as Kiss, Kerrang! and heat radio for the first time.”

Donnach O’Driscoll, CEO Absolute Radio says: “Already 74% of Absolute Radio’s listeners listen on digital radio and we are pleased to see the vast majority of listeners in the Government pilot really enjoying the whole digital radio experience, including finding great new digital stations such as Absolute 80s and Absolute Radio 90s as well as our other decade stations.”

Tim Moss, owner of Moss of Bath, says: “Moss of Bath was happy to be involved in the Go Digital digital radio pilot and confirms what we know; that listeners love digital radio. As a trusted independent electrical retailer we know that some listeners need more help and this reinforces the role of the trusted independent electrical retailer.”

Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 9:44 am by .

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  • James Vincent

    When DAB coverage matches FM coverage I may take another interest in it. Until then not interested in the converting Or listening. It’s a dead technology. And Ofcom and government not made an effort.

  • Matt

    In Leicestershire we have more choice on FM, for instance we can pick up more Local stations from Leicester, which play better Music to Capital, and have better local coverage than Capital, yet failed to make it on DAB due to space, or lack of it.
    Meanwhile we can also pick up on FM stations further afield – stations from as far as Birmingham and south as Northampton.
    Not to Mention Leicester DAB end’s pretty much as soon as you leave the county, whereas on FM (Especially 105.4FM) it stretches as far north as Nottingham as far East as East Lincolnshire and as Far south as North London.
    Meanwhile Kiss, sounded great on DAB, now they changed it, and it pretty much sounds awful.

    • Daniel Moule

      Matt Capital 105.4 dosen’t reach far as north london you lose it just before Milton Keynes when you get a faint signal of Magic 105,4

      but DAB is absolutely AWFUL I can get better sounds from a cassette, If i am honest DAB is a waste of space, i would go for DAB+ but I do prefer the HDRadio that USA and Canada has

      • al morr

        DAB is quantity not quality, they have evan downgraded Classicfm from 160 to128 bit rate

        • Daniel Moule

          I thought that but I use online radio and FM stopped using DAB about a year ago

    • al morr

      The reason for that was that used to be in 128 bits stereo, now its in 80 bits mono

  • Steve Penk

    On behalf of those of us who are currently operating privately owned/funded smaller commercial radio stations in the UK, I would like to say……….Sadly I don’t have the deep public funded pockets of the BBC, who simply don’t operate in the real business world in 2013, and live in some over privileged fantasy radio world where everything is paid for them (its easy to spend/waste money when it Isn’t your own) or the bigger commercial groups who CAN afford this. For all those banging on about how brilliant digital radio is, well first of all it isn’t as great as people say it is, and second, it’s simply not affordable for stations like my own. DAB coverage is poor and in no way matches FM coverage. I wish the BBC would stop over hyping the digital radio switchover.

    • dave

      Sadly Steve I think there is little to be done to stop this ? . How meny stations just on FM after switchover will survive ?

  • apuk101

    How much longer are the government and people like Ennals, Tabor et al going to be in denial about the “success” of DAB radio? I know not a single person who has one – I do, but it was a gift a few years ago and is in its box somewhere. I did consider putting it on Ebay but who’d want it?

    DAB is, in a word, crap.

    Long live FM!

    • al morr

      Long live the Long Wave

      • Alf

        Long live the Sine Wave

  • wilsonyorkshire

    I enjoy listening to a variety of radio and so without DAB I could not listen to commercial Jazz FM or listener-supported Premier Christian Radio or licence fee-tax funded Radio 4 Extra and without FM I could not listen to the great local station Yorkshire Coast Radio. We need, for free-to-air broadcasts, both DAB for national and regional radio as well as FM for local and community radio.

  • felix

    DAB radio………For all you hi fi buffs.

    It was said a good few years ago, this is the future, my first DAB was in about 93/94 and I think most stations were 128-160 streaming IN STEREO. As the years roll on, alot of these stations are halving there bit rate, two stations in MONO ………. ..that sounds a good idea, WHAT ? and as for the content, Absolute should have the strap-line, THE SAME SONGS ALL DAY- EVERYDAY

    Over the past couple of weeks I have heard these great one hit wonders ?

    Billy Joel- Uptown Girl

    Dexys -Come On Eileen

    Cyndi Lauper -Girls Wanna Have Fun

    Madness-Baggy Trousers

    Michael -Jackson Billie Jean

    Just for the record, Billy Joel has had over 140 songs, but hey, lets just keep playing Uptown.

    If there are people out there wanting to hear what the 80s really sounded like, go to google or you tube and put in Radio Nova Dublin.

    DAB can be summed up in three words…………………

    DULL BORING TURNOFF.

    • MB

      DAB transmissions didn’t begin until 1995 so it’s impressive if you could hear it in stereo in 1993/94 :)

  • harry worth

    +steve penk is correct commercial radio operates in the uk with one hand tied behind its back. while the state broadcaster change s formats over night whithout raference to ofcom over pays presents and poaches from commercial radio .we need a greek solution for the vastly over staffed over paid state owned bbc

  • Adrian S

    Sound quality on DAB was naff when it was first launched int his country, now it is worse on many stations. i got a DAB radio, but i listen to FM even if the station is on DAB. Dab was out of date years ago, now it is even more so.

  • Mav321

    Can someone tell me how many music stations on fm broadcast in mono? Because up here in Liverpool I’ve never heard any!

    This survey is a joke!!! I bet no one in bath ever tried to listen to DAB on a high end sound system or quality pair of headphones. I bet it was a one speaker radio most people used.

    I stream abs80s in the car & I also have DAB in the car but will not use DAB untill stereo is back with online quality bit rate!!!

  • Shane1994

    Surely they are barking up the wrong tree with DAB Radio? Wireless Internet is progressing so fast nowadays that by the time DAB actually gets to the point of being in everyones homes and cars, so will internet access and a whole world of radio stations.

  • Brian Lister

    It’s a fair point that if national and regional stations all moved onto DAB, this would free most of the FM band for smaller commercial and community stations. But this raises a fundamental issue –why is broadcast radio in the UK adopting a new technology which will only work for some of its stations? Why is there no plan for local stations to go digital? Are we saying that in ten years time local and community radio will be the only category of media NOT available on standard digital radio devices?

    DAB must be the only new digital media technology which offers consumers a narrower choice of content than the
    analogue system it purports to replace. It’s as if only established artists and labels could issue CDs while new bands and independents had to remain on vinyl. Or only the big Hollywood studios and distributors could produce DVDs, while smaller film makers should be happy to see their product distributed on VHS cassettes!!

    • Radio Geordie

      You were the boss of a couple of small stations yourself so you should know already that these stations cover such a small area that they barely make enough money to keep their heads above water.
      -
      Whilst Ofcom insist on keeping the “gatekeeper” system with regards to DAB, all that will happen is that big greedy corporations will snap up as many licences as possible and demand that competitors pay through the nose if they want to get on DAB – effectively, the little guy ends up subsidising their services.
      -
      Even if DRM+ (which I believe is the digital standard planned for FM) were to become available, the big greedy corporations would do exactly the same here.
      -
      Until there’s a fairer system brought in to play; i.e. everyone pays the same amount – e.g. X amount for every 16kps used, small commercial and community stations would never be able to make the switch to digital.

      • Brian Lister

        Hi Geordie,
        I can honestly say that all the stations I’ve managed so far were, at least by the time I left, returning a decent profit. But I accept it is temporarily harder for them in the present economic climate.
        It’s not that the multiplex operators are being greedy – DAB is just a VERY expensive solution to a problem that did not really exist. At least on DRM and DRM+ it is not neccessary to have a complicated multiplex controlled by a “gatekeeper”. While DRM+ on VHF can carry up to four separate programmes – if you wish – these might well come from the same broadcaster or group. Different services can have different transmission areas and stations could operate their own DRM transmitter if they wished, just as they do on AM and FM now..

  • Kevin Hunt

    When will Mr Ennals and the people paying his salary get the
    message – DAB is like our education system; dumbed down and of poor quality.
    When ( ho ho ) DAB provides me with as good a signal and proper Hi-Fi quality
    then maybe, just maybe, it might be worth reconsidering ( DAB+ that is…..).

  • electronic_engineer

    The Bath study was not a fair test, and the conclusions have been spun to give the results the DCMS wanted. First, Bath has unusually good DAB coverage in comparison with FM and is not typical of the rest of the country. Second – and to be fair, IpsosMORI make this clear in their summary – this was a test of new radios, not of DAB. The report explains how several respondents talked enthusiastically about the digital radio they’d been given (whatever happened to proper double-blind scientific testing?) – before discovering that they’d actually had the radio switched to FM by mistake for the whole of the test period.

    Many people in the trial thought DAB was better because of automatic tuning and presets, without realising FM RDS radios have had these for over 20 years. In the survey about car radios – where people are used to RDS radios – the results were far less favourable to DAB, with some people even withdrawing from the trial. And another supposed advantage of DAB – scrolling text information – is also available with RDS, but for some mysterious reason the BBC only puts text info on DAB, not FM.

    Government research will have no credibility until they conduct proper fair tests which compare like with like – a modern RDS FM receiver compared with a DAB one, and using the same quality of amplifier and speakers for both.

    The government’s energy consumption survey is similarly unscientific: their preferred study looked only at mains powering of radios, where DAB radios do increasingly well because they generally have more modern efficient power supplies compared with older FM models. Battery power is what’s most important as energy from batteries costs literally thousands of times more than that from the mains – and this is where FM radios (old or new) do much better. There’s a reason why not a single mobile phone has a DAB radio in it. And yet the government’s survey completely omits data on battery usage. I wonder why?

    If the DCMS wants its research to have any credibility, it should test FM and DAB radios of comparable quality; give people the chance to hear the best that FM and DAB at typical bitrates can offer when transmitting the same source material; and it should compare the battery useage of FM and DAB radios of similar vintage.

    If it then transpires that most people prefer DAB to FM – and the BBC apologises for ever broadcasting in stereo, given that mono was apparently better all along – then I shall withdraw all my objections and accept switchover immediately. But I’m not holding my breath …

    Until then, if you feel strongly that the public are being deceived please take action – complain to your MP, tell as many people as possible, do whatever you can to spread the facts and prevent this dishonest and disastrous switchover from happening.

    • Matt Cameron

      Couldn’t have put it better myself. Well said!

    • Mike D TempoFM

      Could be wrong but I think it’s OFCOM that doesn’t allow scrolling on FM RDS. I have seen it used by pirates in Leeds publicising their mobile number alternately with their name. The goalposts seem to be regularly moved to put an undeserved good spin on DAB which will clearly become the ‘medium wave’ of the future judging by all the mono mode stations and low bitrates used. Good – it leaves FM as the luxury mode it always was.

  • Matt Cameron

    DAB is expensive, very power-hungry and sonically inferior to FM. It may well ‘sound good’ on a lightweight portable set, but when hooked-up to a quality hifi, the compression is obvious.

    DAB, as a digital format, has already been superceeded by the likes of (superior) DAB+, which is being adopted throughout Europe. The chances are that DAB as a format in its own right won’t last all that long, as we strive for ‘EU harmonisation’.

    The government and the BBC continue to push DAB with a bias that is breathtaking! Sales of DAB sets show that nationally the take-up of the new format is poor. I would suggest that the government have an agenda, in that the want to sell the available bandwidth that closing down FM would provide. If that cost YOU money in having to replace perfectly good radio’s, then too bad, the government will take an aditional income in the form of VAT from the sales of new sets!!

    Please don’t be taken in by the ‘hype’. You will only have to ‘upgrade’ again in the coming years when they change the digital format.

    Show your support for reliable, high quality FM, because once its gone…its gone!!

  • froggy

    Nice press release. Sometime, someone should bother to differentiate between digital radio and DAB. The former may be the future for multi channel broadcast (though not for high quality sound), the latter is a dead technology we should not be wasting our time with… If we can listen to ‘radio’ on a mobile phone data connection, why do we need DAB at all?

  • kipper the cat

    it’s just another geeky fad – listening on smart phones, ipads, PCs etc will eclipse DAB in a few years time – #ELEPHANTINTHEROOM and after that there will be something else equally crap….

    Let’s face it – If you want to listen to the radio – then listen on FM …. Just like the resurgence of the Vinyl LP market – downloads are fine for background – but if you seriously want to play an album – play a record…!

  • Smarty Marty

    Dave sir. This is just a thought but might become reality once the dust has settled after switch over but all those stations left on FM may well be (in time) do very well for themselves as all on DAB become samey. Take Smooth & Magic or Real & Heart, whats the difference between them?
    I maybe talking rubbish here but in time Heart & Real could merge forming a national station and the same with Smooth & Magic Kiss has become more and more commercialized musically and only a few more little tweaks and it will be like Capital. So in a few years maybe they will merge as well all on DAB.

    In time (again I maybe talking rubbish here) but I can see there being 2 wavebands DAB for current national stations and newly merged regional station which will become national by their merger and FM for a new breed of local stations.
    The big problem with DAB is far too many stations are crammed into just 7 muxes nationwide. Why? DAB like FM needs a network of high and low power transmitters to get the signals around the country, so why when DAB starts at Mux 5A (174MHz) and ends at Mux 13F (239MHz) are the government or whoever only using Muxes 11b to 12d? All of FM’s 87.5 to 108 is used in the UK so why the restriction on DAB which is only adding to broadcasters problems?

    This is why I believe radio on FM has a good future all be it with a new breed of local stations. FM will I think become known as the local band and DAB the national band.
    Anyway just a thought.