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The end is near for analogue radio... Part 4, the local radio to do list

In this final part, we have a quick look at what is still left to do for local radio to match FM coverage.

In this final part, we have a quick look at what is still left
published on UK Free TV

As we saw from part one, radio started out as a regional services. From this national networks were added. Then from 1969 onwards, local radio was added.

However, running a network of local radio stations, all with their own output, staff, presenter and news has always stretched the budget of individual stations a little bit thin.

This is as true for BBC stations, which share a small proportion, 4.6% of the TV Licence (£114.7m on content, £9.9m on distribution, £27.9 on infrastructure, making £152.5m), as it is for local commercial stations that fund themselves from adverts.

DAB local radio

Almost all of the country does now have a local radio DAB service - see List of all DAB multiplexes, but there are still some on the "to do very soon" list.

The "missing" services cover 5,583,000 people, which is about 9% of the UK population.

These are:

Cumbria - 408,000 people

Derbyshire - 652,000 people, Now Digital (East Midlands) Limited

Gloucestershire - 498,000 people, MuxCo (Gioucestershire) Limited

Hereford and Worcester - 501,000 people, MuxCo (South Midlands) Limited

Lincolnshire - 550,000 people, MuxCo Lincolnshire Limited

Mid and West Wales 377,000 people, MuxCo Wales Limited

North Yorkshire - 531,000 people, MuxCo North Yorkshire Limited

Somerset - 444,000 people, MuxCo Somerset Limited

Suffolk - 541,000 people

Surrey about 1.085 million people, MuxCo Surrey and North Sussex Limited

Why can't we have local radio on Freeview?

The Freeview service is provided on six Multiplexes. Like the DAB multiplexes, these services provide a large number of channels together on a single broadcast.

The three "commercial" multiplexes operate a UK wide service, and are therefore unsuitable for local radio. One of the "public service" multiplexes is for high definition TV services only.

This leaves the BBC and Digital 3+4 multiplexes. However, even though these services are "regional", they each cover many "local radio" areas. It would therefore be impracticable to add so many local stations to either multiplex.

However, Local television on Freeview is coming. These services are designed to provide a local TV service to specific local areas. It may be possible for each of these multiplexes to have local radio added to them.

Why can't we have BBC local radio on Freesat or Sky?

The additional cost for the BBC to add the 39 local radio stations not on digital satellite (BC London 94.9 is already there) to the four DVB-S mode transponders would probably be marginal.

However, the BBC does have to currently pay Sky a large fee to add channels to the Sky EPG, so this would be perhaps unreasonably expensive (see Government to stop Sky charging public service broadcasters for "retransmission").

And whist the BBC owns Freesat, it would probably not be worth the bother of up linking 39 radio streams if Sky viewers could not also benefit.

See also BBC - Annual Report 2012/13 - Expenditure

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Sunday, 22 September 2013
Brian Wright

6:13 PM

DAB portable radios priced at £100 (Pure) seem content to make them Mono. Fair enough.
I have £3k worth of hifi equipment and FM is much more enjoyable in dynamic range and audio depth.
There's no doubt that the quality at the studio stage or digital recoding that the dynamic range and stereo sound stage is excellent. The whole listening experience as far as I'm concerned is spoilt by the method of transmission through the "ethos" using the current coding & decoding technology.
Exactly the same reason as Freeview TV has so many limitations.
When you see the extent of the recent BBC's engineering input for the "Prom's" you wonder why it is broadcast in the low bit rates, required to cram in all of this so called listening/viewing Choice

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Brian Wright's 77 posts GB flag
Trevor Harris

7:45 PM


DRM is designed for LW, MW and SW and can give quite good quality if there is sufficient bitrate. In fact several broadcasters are using this including BBC Worldwide. It seems that India and Brazil are the biggest users as large areas can be covered at very low cost. With 18khz bandwidth 64kb/s can be achieved. AAC_HE will produce higher quality than DAB at 128kb/s but not HiFi. This is what makes DAB look so silly. UK coverage only needs a few transmitters and so the costs are minimal.

@Brian Wright

The reason the BBC have to record the "proms" at the highest quality is that they want to sell CDs and DVDs. They also want to sell to other broadcasters who would not accept the low quality they dish out to licence payers.

The same argument applies to HD television which the BBC transmits to UK viewers at the lowest possibe bitrates.


The £1 million was based on the actual cost of a 64kb/s station 2 years ago.

The £1 billion was not my estimate but considers DAB has been going for 18 years I think it is a reasonable estimate. The BBC has been agressively promoting Pure radios something they are not supposed to do. It is very noticable that in many of thier programs they promote DAB in there dramas. You often see DAB radios in the most unusual places.

I explained in my previous post why DAB is not FREE.

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Trevor Harris's 367 posts GB flag

8:58 PM

Unlike virtually every recent natioal broadcasting upgrade since the 1960s (colour on 625, stereo on FM), DAB is NOT 'backwards compatible'. Neither does it bring any new 'killer applications' - unless PopUp Radio, TeamRock and a couple of god squad stations float your boat...

Even digital TV was relatively simple to include for legacy viewers with analogue TVs - they simply needed a set-top box and the existing antenna was normally sufficient. Few people have mobile TV, so it wasn't much of an issue. Digital TV brought improvements over analogue TV, whereas DAB brings poorer sound - does the BBC think that people are really stupid to pay for something which yields lower quality?

But DAB with its different frequency range needs a different antenna system for car radios, it doesn't have RDS and you cannot even set your watch by it.

'Legacy' listeners complained loudly enough when the BBC tried to mess with Radio 4 on Long Wave - and I suspect they'll complain even louder if the BBC should ever try to switch of FM and force everyone to switch to expensive, low quality bubbling mud radio.

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nickwilcock's 24 posts GB flag
Monday, 23 September 2013

1:32 PM


You cannot set your watch by digital TV either, even more so if you are watching Sky or Freesat.

That's the reason why BBC1 & ITV no longer show the clock before the news programmes, as they used to in the old days. It's out by up to ten seconds, depending on your method of viewing.

All digital radio systems will be the same.

Digital TV didn't bring improvements over analogue TV unless you are watching in HD, and only a small number are. The analogue TV pictures were superior to the compressed SD pictures on Freeview.

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Mark's 181 posts GB flag
Trevor Harris

8:08 PM


mark said "The analogue TV pictures were superior to the compressed SD pictures on Freeview."

This is not quite true. Freeview pictures suffer from the low bitrates which have resulted from squeezing too many channels on each multiplex. PAL analogue pictures had very low chrominance bandwidth which means that the colour definition was very poor. It also suffered from a dot pattern appearing in strong colour areas. Analogue also sufferers from colour interference patterns with pictures containing things like fine striped shirts etc. In freeview the colour definition is only about a quarter that of the luminance signal. This is less noticable because the eye colour in less definition than black and white. On satellite I would say that SD pictures are generaly better than analogue.

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Trevor Harris's 367 posts GB flag

11:29 PM

Well, the 7 EPG guide and programme info is invaluable Mark, something you didn't have on the old analogue system.

Coupled with the fact that 20 odd channels, even in Freeview light areas, many more if you're in range of a full Freeview transmitter along with true 16:9 picture format and I'd hate to go back to 4/5 channel analogue TV.

Certainly in this area DTV pictures are a vast improvement on the old analogue system, even those in standard definition.

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PJH's 240 posts GB flag
Friday, 27 September 2013

7:53 PM

I just bought a new car. No DAB, only MW and FM. DAB not even available as an option. The
proprietry dashboard design would make it difficult to retrofit any other radio. A Pure Highway solution is unattractive : aerial and hanging wire problems.


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michael's 872 posts GB flag

11:37 PM

Yep, that's always the problem Michael. Finding a car with a DAB radio.

I think the prediction of the demise of analogue radio is somewhat premature for that very reason.

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PJH's 240 posts GB flag
Sunday, 29 September 2013
Brian Wright

11:11 PM

Trevor Harris said.In freeview the colour definition is only about a quarter that of the luminance signal. This is less noticable because the eye colour in less definition than black and white.
The Chrominance information does not have to have the same bandwidth of the Luminance. As long as the Luminance has a wide bandwidth the Chroma just has to "fill in" between the edges of the B& W luminance. The colour ratio information of the Red/Green & Blue chrominance is 0.59 Green 0.3 Red & 0.11 Blue
By the way you still get cross talk of the Luminance when broadcasts are transmitted on SD Freeview much the same as the stripped shirt problems of Analogue broadcasts. This problem is largely eliminated when you view the same scene on Freeview HD

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Brian Wright's 77 posts GB flag
Monday, 30 September 2013
Trevor Harris

3:52 PM

The Ofcom report on Digital Radio is out

The latest annual report on digital radio from Ofcom shows people are still buying more FM radio sets than DAB, and 60% of new cars still dont have DAB as standard.
Forty-six per cent of people claimed ownership of a DAB digital radio, but out of those who do not have access to a set at home, only 14% claim that they are likely/very likely/certain to buy a set in the next 12 months.

Radio Today | Report: Not much interest in buying DAB

It is interesting to read the comments to the radio today article. Many seemed to be hacked off the switch off of regional DAB.

William Rogers, UKRD Chief says: This report tells us what we already know to be true. There will be no switchover to DAB in 2015, the choice of DAB as the alternative platform to FM for local radio was an error, DAB has failed to become the choice of platform for those listening to local radio stations, more sets are sold today without a DAB enabled receiver than those that have one, the choices people are making in terms of listening to a digital platform are increasingly those that are not DAB related and the coverage for local radio on DAB remains totally inadequate. This is an inferior and more costly platform.

So there we have it no switch off in 2015.

The end is near for DAB

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Trevor Harris's 367 posts GB flag
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