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Save DAB! Send FM radios to Africa

Or bury them in a hole in the ground. We don't care

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Dumping tech is in the news again. Last week MIT's Nicholas Negroponte appealed for broken OLPC laptops to be sent to Haiti, but this will be dwarfed if the UK radio industry gets its way. Trade body Digital Radio UK wants Britons to send perfectly good working FM radios to Africa, in the hope it will accelerate our migration to DAB.

What's the thinking, then? Digital radio has stalled worldwide - it's not just a uniquely British or a uniquely DAB phenomenon - and the Digital Economy Bill failed to set a date for a switchover. It's a chicken and egg problem: the unique digital radio programming doesn't draw the listeners, and without the listeners, why produce the content, or pay the carriage?

DRUK has watched the pork-barrel scrappage scheme for cars and had a lightbulb moment. If you can persuade punters to throw out, they'll have to listen on digital. Simples? The problem is there are 150 million perfectly good working FM radios, and even setting up a dedicated repatriation scheme will do little to redress the ratio.

There's more than a whiff of racism behind it, too. The assumption is that the recipients ought to be grateful for any bit of tat we send them. Why don't they get the the first world investment and high grade IT they deserve?

We ought to add that our own media correspondents seem to be lost in a foreign country, and have some difficulty internalising the fact that digital radio is still a minority pursuit.

The Telegraph notes that Africa is chosen as it is "where analogue radio is still dominant". Er, much like it is here.

While the Guardian calls the FM sets "outmoded analogue radios". Being the well-mannered people we are, we'll resist the temptation to describe "losing £100,000 a day" as anything other than a bang-up-to-date business strategy.

A dose of reality is needed. As Grant Goddard's radio blog notes, Canada no longer sees DAB as an FM replacement, Germany has reaffirmed FM is the primary radio platform, while France has kicked digital radio into, how do you say... les herbes grandes? ®

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