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Lords: Analogue radio must die

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Digital radio isn't great and the public doesn't want it, but you're going to get it anyway. So recommends the House of Lords Communications Committee today.

90 per cent of the UK listens to radio, and 94 per cent of listeners are happy with what they've got. The Lords accept most of the points made by critics of DAB and the Digital Switchover, noting: "The gradual rate of take-up of digital radio services does not suggest that consumers are enticed by the reception quality, extra functionality or the digital-only content so far available."

How about something better, then?

"To go back on this policy now would risk turning confusion into an utter shambles" they write in a new report (pdf).

So the Lordships recommend everyone get on with the Digital Switchover. They advise implementing the Digital Radio Working Group's (DRWG) recommendation to build out DAB coverage so it reaches 94 per cent of the population, but don't say who how it should be funded. Both the BBC and the commercial broadcasters want extra cash for this. But the Lords duck this issue.

Punters will be browbeaten into buying a digital set, when an analogue one would do, we're told:

"The Government must ensure that advice goes to retailers and the public that when purchasing radios, consumers should purchase sets that include a digital tuner."

That's the stick. But there may be a carrot. The Lords back a cash-for-trannies scheme, so perfectly good FM radios can be traded in.

"The Government should encourage the industry to devise a sensible scrappage scheme, recognising that the industry, manufacturers and retailers, will benefit heavily from the new sales generated by digital switchover." They also advise "the Government inform consumers as soon as possible as to how the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations will operate for disposal of analogue radios".

Another recommendation is for car manufacturers to fit a multistandard chip, ASAP. It isn't clear whether multistandard chip here means digital and analogue, or the different flavours of digital radio: DAB, DAB+, DVB-T too.

Anyone hoping a timetable for DAB+ implementation would be part of the deal will be disappointed. The Lordships say too much has been invested by the public in DAB, but advise a timetable for multistandard radios to be produced. In other words, the public will have to invest even more in obsolete radios.

It's everything the DAB lobby could have hoped for - short of a blank cheque. ®

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