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All posts by Mark

Below are all of Mark's postings, with the most recent are at the bottom of the page.

@ Trevor Harris

You have chosen to quote directly from Grant Goddard's blog, but this is what Ed Vaizey (the minister responsible) said on 5th July 2011:

"We remain confident that agreement [for funding] can be reached and that the necessary build-out of the local and national DAB platforms will be made to support a positive switchover decision.

We are still on course for a decision on switchover in 2013."

Given this statement it's somewhat premature to be making a firm declaration that it will not happen.

@ michael

1. Yes, when the funding can be sorted. There is a provisional agreement in place but the terms of this are unclear as it hasn't been finalised. I think the 93% figure relates to the number households.

2. Yes

3. I'm not sure how many people receive BBC Radio Devon by AM only. The 93% relates to "robust indoor coverage". Some of the remaining 7% will still receive some indoor coverage or coverage via an aerial. Ofcom have claimed that the population figures are on the conservative side so that 7% figure may in fact be lower. Of course the Radioplayer will also be available for listening.

4. Now Digital is wholly owned by the transmission company Arqiva and they are not going to go bust. In the unlikely event of them handing the licence back to Ofcom someone else (such as MuxCo or Global) would take it on and BBC Radio Devon will continue on 10C.

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We don't have 40-50 stations in the UK because the BBC national networks are planned to give 99% coverage (94% indoors) so they are true national networks.

In some other countries (such as Spain, Italy & France) the so-called "national" networks have poor coverage outside the main cities.

You will get Digital One in NI when analogue TV in the Republic is switched off in 2012. The proposed sites are in this document:


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DRM is dead in the water - when the BBC experimented with it in Plymouth there were night-time interference issues and there are still no radios on the shelves some ten years after the technology was finalised. There is no sign of DRM+ radios in retailers either whereas there are loads of DAB radios on sale.

13 million DAB radios have been sold in the UK (1 million in the last six months)(these are June 2011 figures) and 38.2% of households have at least one DAB radio (source: GfK - March 2011).

The position in the UK is nothing like Spain or Portugal - you cannot just switch off transmitters and leave 38.2% of households with expensive ornaments (even if most of them will also receive FM - and that's not much good for listening to the 5 BBC digital-only networks, or the awful AM quality of 5 Live).

Spain & Portugal have got away with it because hardly any DAB radios have been sold there.

I don't want to put up with the limited choice on FM in the car, I want to listen to the broad choice of stations that DAB gives, such as 6 Music, Jazz FM, Radio 4 Extra & Absolute (the latter isn't on FM outside London).

I also want Test Match Special without them going to the shipping forecast at a vital moment, or missing 30 minutes of play for Yesterday In Parliament, as happens in winter.

Meanwhile I see that the VW Beetle is the latest car to have DAB fitted as standard:

First UK details of all-new Beetle - Scotcars

There is no sign of DRM in any cars as yet.

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Trevor, I'm not sure if you have ever listened to BBC Radio 6 Music or Jazz FM but no FM station plays the kind of music that they do. BBC Radio 6 Music alone justifies the licence fee - the range of music played is unequalled at around 4,000 unique tracks each month.

Most areas of the country have a commercial radio "choice" on FM of Heart (or something similar) and maybe a small-scale station pumping out the same cheesy hits. Then there are regionals such as Real Radio and Capital also pumping out the same old stuff.

The pirate FM stations that you refer to are mainly playing the same kind of stuff as BBC 1Xtra and Choice on DAB.

I'm not sure if your claim about the financial state of digital-only stations is correct, but I think Absolute 80s and Jazz FM both cover their operating costs with the advertising and sponsorship income they attract. They have both attracted decent audiences and are growing.

Interesting to note that today sees the launch of a new local radio for the South Wales valleys on DAB-only - Mountain Radio. This replaces the AM station that closed a couple of years ago and provides a much-needed community service for the area.

Welcome to Mountain FM's Website

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The BBC will not need anywhere need 1,000 masts for DAB.

The FM figures quoted by Ofcom for BBC national radio are: 94.9% for robust indoor coverage, 99.1% for variable coverage.

The BBC has a plan in place for 97.2% robust indoor DAB coverage, so clearly some people with poor FM are going to benefit with a strong DAB signal.

The number of transmitters required for this is 404. Even with the law of diminishing returns it's clear that the BBC will not be building 1,000 transmitters (which would be 596 just to serve 1.9% of the population.

The BBC will be doing more planning work this summer around their existing network to lift the figure above 97.2%. The document submitted to Ofcom on 14th June 2011 is subject to amendments because of this.

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If Mountain applied for an FM community radio licence they wouldn't be allocated enough frequencies to cover the whole of South Wales, only the Ebbw Vale area.

As for the claim that no DAB-only station makes a profit that can't possibly be right.

Absolute 80s has lots of adverts and is largely automated so it must cover its running costs, especially with 624,000 listeners per week, according to RAJAR.

Similarly Jazz FM has many advertisers and sponsors. A look at their website will tell you this. They have a weekly reach of 495,000 listeners.

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Absolute as a group have lost money because of their large investment in technology (website, phone apps etc) but that doesn't mean that Absolute 80s as a station hasn't made a profit. Absolute is likely to be sold back to Virgin shortly, according to press reports.

The Jazz FM 2011 accounts haven't been published yet. The 2010 figures show a loss but much of this is start up costs.

Advertising revenue on radio has declined mainly as a result of Government cutbacks in public campaigns, but the Department of Health has now done a U-turn and reversed this policy after research showed that the campaigns were having an impact. Going forward you can expect the Government spending on radio to rise again.

@ Nedbod

You don't need a Sky sub to listen to the BBC stations on satellite. You can get Freesat.

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£1 million is the price that BFBS were reported to be paying for their 128kbps* capacity, so £650,000 for a 64k stream seems about the right price for half the capacity.

I'm not sure if those figures are before or after Arqiva were required to lower their prices as a condition for the merger with NGW. The rates went down by about 20% as I recall.

Digital One's multiplex is now virtually full (I think there is 16 kbps spare) so they don't need to be giving discounts to religious groups or anyone else.

* The bit rate for BFBS has now reduced to 80kbps as a result of MOD funding cuts.

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The MW services for Radio Guernsey & Radio Jersey are being retained because they carry the States proceedings (the Governments of the islands).

The MW services for Radio Gloucester & Radio Derby are being retained because there is no FM coverage over large parts of these counties.

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Digital radio section | Digital radio
Sunday 13 November 2011 12:36PM

@ SteveP

DAB car radios will work throughout Europe (and Australia/New Zealand) because they are World DMB Profile 1 compliant (they will receive DAB, DAB+ and DMB-R transmissions).

They won't work in the USA or Japan because those countries have adopted non-World DMB digital radio systems.

@ Nedbod

The BBC proposes to switch off the MW transmissions for local radio in England except for Derbyshire & Gloucestershire to save transmission costs. There are areas of Derbyshire & Gloucestershire which have no FM local radio coverage so MW has to stay.

Radio Jersey & Radio Guernsey MW transmissions will also be retained as they broadcast the parliamentary proceedings.

@ michael

Ofcom does not regulate the bit rates of BBC DAB services and no BBC services have reduced their bit rates in the last ten years.

Ofcom's regulation for the commercial stations is based on a minimum sound quality diffgrade measure of -2.0. The latest MP2 encoders will achieve this measure with a bitrate of 112kbps for (joint) stereo broadcasts.

There is no regulatory requirement for DAB stations to broadcast in stereo, it's a commercial decision for each station. Some stations such as Jazz FM have gone for 80kbps mono because it provides reasonable sound quality on a DAB portable (the kind that most DAB radio owners have).

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