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.

UK Commercial Radio DAB MUX Winner – Good For Operator – Bad For Listeners

The UK’s 2nd national commercial radio DAB multiplex was recently awarded to “Sound Digital”, a consortium including the likes of Arqiva, Bauer Media and UTV Media. The result is that within a few months from now, we’ll have available new radio stations such as talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and Magic Mellow, while existing stations like Heat, Jazz FM and Kisstory may be broadcasting across the whole UK.

I suspect this new MUX (multiplax) will still be using DAB at the lowest possible cost for the operators. That means lowest possible bit rates Kbps. providing the lowest possible audio quality for listeners and using Mono instead of Stereo wherever they can get away with it.

So this is where the evolution of terrestrial broadcasting ends: an evolution which was to always – over the years – increase audio quality. e.g from MF/AM to VHF/FM, first in Mono and then in Stereo, then to provide Station-Labelling enabling car radio listeners to follow a programme by its label throughout the country.

But most of all it reverses the move to higher audio quality pioneered over the years by the Beeb, to one of quantity squeezed in. Never mind the quality – feel the quantity! Feel the number of channels over the quality. Future generations will never know real audio quality if/when they still listen in.

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