Feeds

BBC in secret trial to see if you care about thing you plainly don't

What broadcast tech won't be missed? No, not DAB

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

In the last month the BBC quietly switched off AM radio transmitters to see if anyone noticed - and it seems not a lot of people did.

Four local radio stations had their medium-wave transmissions axed in the last few weeks. Essex and Hereford are now back on while Nottingham and Kent remain absent in the interest of seeing if any people are outraged - or if the transition to FM and digital radio has left the medium-wave bands to crystal-radio-clutching kids who really aren't worth the money.

The vast majority of AM stations are also broadcast on FM, slightly up the dial, and on DAB too. FM radio is in the government's sights, and AM is likely to be collateral damage in the rush to digital.

Transmitting the same radio station in four formats (AM, FM, DAB and over the internet) is expensive, and the BBC would love to save some cash by dropping AM as soon as possible, though not if lots of people are still listening. So the corporation replaced four local stations with a recorded announcement suggesting listeners phone in to report they'd noticed:

We asked the BBC how many calls it received, but the broadcaster just confirmed that BBC Radio Nottingham will remain off medium wave "because we want to assess the impact of a longer term switch off given the low number of response in these areas".

AM, or amplitude modulation, was one of the first forms of radio encoding, varying the strength of the signal over time to reflect the desired audio. It is primitive enough to be decoded with an unpowered crystal radio stuffed into a matchbox or printed into a postcard. But variations in signal strength from atmospheric or environmental factors are interpreted as desired sounds, so AM quality is variable to say the least.

Which, in Europe at least, prompted the move to FM - frequency modulation - which varies the frequency to encode the audio so the strength of the signal can change without ruining the sound. FM radio had to slide up the dial, as AM was already established in the medium-wave bands, but most listeners seem to have moved with it. Although medium-wave bands are full of radio it's bereft of listeners as the BBC is discovering.

FM radio is much more popular than AM, and car drivers in particular are reluctant to make the switch to the arguably lower-quality-but-certainly-more-expensive digital equivalent, which brings us to Blighty's Ministry of Fun.

Ed Vaizey, the minister for culture, communications and creative industries, announced the schedule for switching off analogue radio next year at the unveiling of "D Love", the animated character who'll convince us all that DAB is the way of the future.

D Love will visit our TV screens and radios as part of a £10m campaign running over the next two years. The cartoon will tell us we should be embracing the future, rather than clinging to the past, and clearing those valuable airwaves for something a little more profitable. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
'Internet Freedom Panel' to keep web overlord ICANN out of Russian hands – new proposal
Come back with our internet! cries Republican drawing up bill
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.