BBC Trashing 13 UK Medium Wave Transmitters

So the BBC has decided to turn off 13 of its Medium Wave radio transmitters.

The BBC is meant to be a public service, so in principle, saving money is good, but not if listeners are deprived from services. However, as MW use in Britain is probably pretty low now, the BBC will likely get away with it this time.

But some of the BBC local stations do occasionally split services to cover things like local sports events on MW only, leaving regular programs on FM. BBC Gloucestershire does this now and then, but I see they are not on the current list to lose MW yet.

I’m not sure how the BBC would get on removing national MW services, e.g. Virgin Radio possibly still has some audience on MW.

The Beeb’s decision is, of course, all to do with cutting transmitter running costs and the smaller but important costs of line-links and transmitter and mast maintenance.

Of course, the longer term issue is what is going to happen to the MW band? The obvious answer I wish for is to see the reworking of these frequencies using digital DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), which would give all sorts of possibilities … e.g. multiplexing of channels, an emergency alert system for the whole country and some small video content alongside radio.

But, so far, I don’t see any appetite for doing this. The BBC would probably say they could not accept the necessary capital costs and it would need the usual long-term blessing from OFCOM – and we know only too well that they are driven by political people at Westminster, who either don’t really know about the situation, or are driven by thoughts of avoiding expense … especially now when the Government faces huge capital spends reworking hundreds of high rise buildings, etc..

Is there an appetite from entrepreneurs to apply for use of some MW frequencies and start DRM? Somehow I don’t think so. Its not the same situation as in the 1960’s when there was a wide-open opportunity with a huge number of listeners equipped and ready-to-go with conventional MW sets.

It’s unlike India where the government has made the political decision and converted All India Radio to DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) without a huge number of receivers out in the population. They clearly live in hopes of building new receiver business in the country.

Will UK’s Digital Radio Plans Benefit Listeners?

A recent article entitled: “Vaizey: ‘Government working towards a digital radio future’” attracted our attention. “Vaizey” of course refers to Ed Vaizey, the UK’s current minister for “culture, communications and creative industries” who stated that: “Thanks to the commitment of the Government, the BBC and commercial radio, another 4.3 million households will be able to tune in to DAB by end of 2016…”

Maybe that many listeners will be “able” to receive DAB by end 2016, but have they asked the listeners if they really want DAB? We suspect most are quite happy with FM and possibly even AM radio.

Well there you are, the bandwagon is rolling and the government will keep pushing it now. With the new national multiplexer now being advertised by OFCOM, it will eventually be built out and operating alongside the existing DAB multiplexers. Much of the new multiplexer will be DAB+.

Will there be protests from people who still have sets capable of only getting old DAB? Or will the timescale of the new multiplexer be 2017+ so that the Government can argue that people will by then have replaced their existing DAB receivers?

By end 2016 FM may be a distant memory or perhaps will only be used by very small outfits like community radio. Or will community radio ever be able to start using DRM if new receivers appear using combination chipset circuitry?

Note that India is adopting DRM heavily and is pressing its set makers to grab the export opportunity with DRM compatible sets around the world. Will the Far East industries also grab the opportunity?

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