Norway has just become the first country to switch off analogue broadcasting (FM) altogether. This has been a phased process across regions of the country which has just been completed, making Norway the first country in the world to offer DAB only.
When will the UK follow?
There has been much debate in recent years as to the pros and cons to the eventual demise of Analogue broadcasting in the UK and what this will mean to listeners. The UK radio industry will watch with keen interest on how this decision plays out in Norway and this will reignite interest in the subject and raise questions again. When will it happen in the UK? Should it happen at all? Why hasn’t it happened? What does this mean for the listener?
Owen Watters, CEO at Roberts Radio, has been involved with the debate for many years, championing DAB, whilst remaining absolutely resolute that the audio industry must be responsible and ensure key criteria is met before a date is considered. Rather like the switch to digital TV, this must be well planned and well communicated to the public so they do see this as progress.
Roberts was the first brand to introduce a portable DAB radio in 2000. 17 years later what is the future for Digital Audio Broadcasting? As Roberts celebrates its 85th anniversary this year, the brand has seen it all when it comes to evolving audio technologies and Owen Watters is keen to share his knowledge on the pending UK analogue/FM switch-off.
Why hasn’t the UK taken the decision to switch-off analogue yet?
There are certain criteria that must be met before a switch-off date can finally be agreed. The DAB signal must be available at a national level to ensure the wider population has access to the DAB signal. It is not acceptable to leave FM users without either option.
The volume of cars still on the road presents an issue. Whilst some car brands ensure new cars are fitted with DAB as standard, there are still a large amount on the road without DAB. This figure continues to fall as older cars leave the road, but it needs to drop significantly. There are adaptors that can be purchased that will provide access to DAB, but this is a short term fix and not a viable long term solution.
National communication is vital and switching-off FM cannot happen until people understand how this will affect their listening and the benefits that DAB and Smart Radio offers.
What type of radio product will people need if there is no FM?
Listeners who currently have radio product with analogue only, will need to invest in a new model. To make the transition easier for listeners, Roberts has ensured that the majority of its portable radio portfolio offers both FM and DAB options, thereby making the radios ‘future-proof’. For listeners looking to purchase a new audio product that features FM, with such a model they are safe in the knowledge that when FM is switched off their radio will still function.
Listeners also need to be aware of ‘Smart’ Radio as this is also a fantastic alternative to FM listening. The advent of ‘Smart’ Radio technology has turned portable radios into multi-functional entertainment system. Smart Radio offers:
• Internet Radio – access over 20,000 global internet radio stations by connecting to wi-fi. Simply search by name, genre or location
• Podcasts – 1000s are available, tune into radio serials, regular programmes and concerts whenever it suits you
• Music Player – stream your music collections stored on a computer/tablet/ smartphone
What are the benefits of DAB vs FM?
Quite simply, choice! There are many more stations broadcast via DAB than FM, so listeners can enjoy a whole range of stations that are unavailable via FM? This is also true of Smart Radio, internet radio has access to around 20,000 global radio stations – you cannot get any of this with FM.
For the FM stalwarts, we need to demystify the technologies behind DAB and Smart Radio and just shout about the benefits and how they enhance the listening experience, the possibilities will amaze them and they will never look back.
Could Smart Radio take over DAB radio making it redundant before analogue is even switched off?
DAB has been positioned as the alternative to analogue and the future for radio for many years now, however with the advent of Smart Radio (ie turning into radio stations via wi-fi) this could actually negate the need for DAB altogether.
Currently more of the population has access to the internet than they do to a DAB signal. Switch off in the UK is continually delayed until geographically everyone can access DAB, but with wi-fi being widely available to the population, this could well be seen as the better option.