Saturday, 24 April 2010

DENMARK: state radio axes DAB radio ‘jukebox’ music channels

Danish state radio, ‘DR’, is cutting the number of DAB channels it broadcasts, many of which are ‘jukebox’ music stations, in order to focus on presenter-led programmes. At the same time, it plans to develop more and better on-demand and mobile content, particularly aimed at young people.

These changes were part of the DR programming strategy for 2011 of ‘quality over quantity’ announced by director general Kenneth Plummer, who said:

“The intention is not to create more, but better and more focused content for the Danish people. This is the recurring theme within our plans for the coming year.

Announcing the policy changes for DAB radio, DR media director Mikael Kamber said:

“We will get to see more ‘real’ content-focused channels on DAB and fewer pure music channels.”

The DR plan is to re-position its DAB radio channels in order to offer genuine public service content aimed at three specific segments of the audience: children, teenagers and the elderly.

One press report said that the number of DR digital radio channels was to be cut from 29 to 10.

The DR digital radio channels collectively had a weekly reach (via DAB and the internet) of 20.1% in 2009, up from 17.1% in 2008. The DR DAB channels attract a 2.5% share of listening in aggregate, low compared to the DR analogue radio channels P4 (46%), P3 (18.3%), P1 (6.9%) and P2 (4.3%). As in the UK, radio listening in Denmark is in slight decline, down by 4 minutes year-on-year to 2 hours 7 minutes per day in 2009.

DAB radio was launched in Denmark by state radio in October 2002, following trials that started in 1995.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Selling the UK DAB radio ‘success’ story overseas

In amongst all the jubilant public statements from media stakeholders following Assent of the Digital Economy Act 2010 this month, one press release stood out for taking wild optimism to new heights. It said:

“The Digital Economy Bill is linked to the government’s Digital Britain report which defines a digital radio switchover plan lasting two years. The migration start date for this is triggered when DAB coverage reaches the same as today’s FM and when 50% of all radio listening is via a digital platform. Based on current digital listening projections from Rajar, and the roll out of new DAB transmitters from Arqiva and the BBC, the UK market is set to achieve both of these milestone [sic] in 2013 …”

Will 50% of radio listening in the UK be delivered via digital platforms by 2013? Not a chance. Even our politicians have admitted this will not happen. Look at the graph below.


The government’s Digital Britain report, published in mid-2009, had forecast that digital listening would be 26% by year-end 2009, which proved to be wide of the mark. The actual figure was 20.9%. What is the chance of 50% being reached by 2013? Zero.

So why is this press release so determined to tell us that “the UK market is set to achieve” a milestone that is so obviously impossible? The answer lies in this next graph which shows that DAB radio receiver sales in the UK were lower in 2009 than in 2008, and lower in 2008 than in 2007.


The market for DAB radio receivers in the UK has been slowing since the end of 2007. DAB radio unit sales are now less than 2m per annum, a volume last seen in 2006. For financial stakeholders in the UK DAB radio receiver sector, this is very bad news.

Frontier Silicon is one of those main stakeholders, a private UK-based semiconductor company that supplies 70% of the global DAB receiver market. With the UK market for DAB drying up, and the European market never having really developed at all, companies such as Frontier Silicon are having to look further overseas for DAB sales. Trade shows such as last week’s Hong Kong Electronics Fair become significant events to convince new territories of the advantages of DAB radio.

So the Frontier Silicon press release quoted earlier, though datelined “London”, is not intended for domestic consumption at all. Yes, it might seem laughable in the UK to believe that digital listening will reach 50% by 2013. But, for Frontier Silicon, this ‘success’ story will help convince overseas markets that DAB is already a raging success in the company’s homeland. This is ‘sales patter’, not fact.

Who at the Hong Kong event would want to learn that the commercial radio industry in the UK has been brought financially to its knees by its decision more than a decade ago to pursue the DAB dream?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Digital Economy Act 2010: a smokescreen for backroom radio ‘deal’

On 8 April 2010 at 1732, the Digital Economy Act was given Royal Assent by Parliament. Who exactly will benefit from the radio clauses in the Act? Certainly not the consumer.

"The passing of the Digital Economy Bill into law is great news for receiver manufacturers," said Frontier Silicon CEO Anthony Sethill. As explained by Electronics Weekly: “Much of the world DAB industry revolves around decoder chips and modules from UK companies, in particular Frontier Silicon. These firms can expect a bonanza as consumers replace FM radios with DAB receivers.” Frontier Silicon says it supplies semi-conductors and modules for 70% of the global DAB receiver market.

Sadly, the Bill/Act was not really about digital radio at all. For the radio sector lobbyists, it was all about securing an automatic licence extension for Global Radio’s Classic FM, the most profitable station in commercial radio, so as to avoid its valuable FM slot being auctioned to allcomers. The payback on this valuable asset alone easily justified spending £100,000’s on parliamentary smooching. It was interesting to see one Labour MP acknowledge the true purpose for all this parliamentary lobbying in the House of Commons debate when he congratulated “[Classic FM managing director] Darren Henley for making a cause of the issue."

The clauses in the Digital Economy Bill on the planned expansion of DAB radio and digital radio switchover were simply promises that Lord Carter had insisted upon as the radio industry's quid pro quo for government assistance to Global Radio’s most profitable asset. The existence of this ‘deal’ between Lord Carter and Global Radio was confirmed by Digital Radio Working Group chairman Barry Cox in his evidence to the House of Lords:

“Lord Carter did not like to do [the deal] immediately. As I understand, he wanted to get something more back from the radio industry. I think there is a deal in place on renewing these licences, yes.”

However, the quid pro quo promise to develop DAB radio will never come to fruition. Now that Global Radio has got what it wanted, over the coming months, the radio industry’s commitment to continue with DAB will inevitably be rolled back. Every excuse under the sun will be wheeled out – the economy, the expense, the lack of industry profitability (having spent nearly £1bn on DAB to date), consumer resistance, the regulator, the Licence Fee, the government (old and new), the car industry, the French, the mobile phone manufacturers, whatever …….

The reasons that digital radio migration/switchover will never happen are no different now than they were before the Digital Economy Bill was passed into law. For the consumer, who seems increasingly unconvinced about the merits of DAB radio, this legislation changes nothing at all. Those reasons, as itemised in my written submission to the House of Lords in January 2010, are:

• The characteristics of radio make the logistics of switchover a very different proposition to the television medium
• The robustness of the existing analogue FM radio broadcasting system
• Shortcomings of the digital broadcast system, ‘Digital Audio Broadcasting’ [DAB], that is intended to replace analogue radio broadcasting in the UK.

More specifically:

1. Existing FM radio coverage is robust with close to universal coverage
• 50 years’ development and investment has resulted in FM providing robust radio coverage to 98.5% of the UK population

2. No alternative usage is proposed for FM or AM radio spectrum
• Ofcom has proposed no alternate purpose for vacated spectrum
• There is no proposed spectrum auction to benefit the Treasury

3. FM/AM radio already provides substantial consumer choice
• Unlike analogue television, consumers are already offered a wide choice of content on analogue radio
• 14 analogue radio stations are available to the average UK consumer (29 stations in London), according to Ofcom research

4. FM is a cheaper transmission system for small, local radio stations
• FM is a cheaper, more efficient broadcast technology for small, local radio stations than DAB
• A single FM transmitter can serve a coverage area of 10 to 30 miles radius

5. Consumers are very satisfied with their existing choice of radio
• 91% of UK consumers are satisfied with the choice of radio stations in their area, according to Ofcom research
• 69% of UK consumers only listen to one or two different radio stations in an average week, according to Ofcom research

6. Sales of radio receivers are in overall decline in the UK
• Consumer sales of traditional radio receivers are in long-term decline in the UK, according to GfK research
• Consumers are increasingly purchasing integrated media devices (mp3 players, mobile phones, SatNav) that include radio reception

7. ‘FM’ is the global standard for radio in mobile devices
• FM radio is the standard broadcast receiver in the global mobile phone market
• Not one mobile phone is on sale in the UK that incorporates DAB radio

8. The large volume of analogue radio receivers in UK households will not be quickly replaced
• Most households have one analogue television to replace, whereas the average household has more than 5 analogue radios
• The natural replacement cycle for a radio receiver is more than ten years

9. Lack of consumer awareness of DAB radio
• Ofcom said the results of its market research “highlights the continued lack of awareness among consumers of ways of accessing digital radio”

10. Low consumer interest in purchasing DAB radio receivers
• Only 16% of consumers intend to purchase a DAB radio in the next 12 months, according to Ofcom research
• 78% of radio receivers purchased by consumers in the UK (8m units per annum) are analogue (FM/AM) and do not include DAB, according to GfK data

11. Sales volumes of DAB radio receivers are in decline
• UK sales volumes of DAB radios have declined year-on-year in three consecutive quarters in 2008/9, according to GfK data

12. DAB radio offers poorer quality reception than FM radio
• The DAB transmission network was optimised to be received in-car, rather than in-buildings
• Consumer DAB reception remains poor in urban areas, in offices, in houses and in basements, compared to FM

13. No common geographical coverage delivered by DAB multiplexes
• Consumers may receive only some DAB radio stations, because geographical coverage varies by multiplex owner

14. Increased content choice for consumers is largely illusory
• The majority of content available on DAB radio duplicates stations already available on analogue radio

15. Digital radio content is not proving attractive to consumers
• Only 5% of commercial radio listening is to digital-only radio stations, according to RAJAR research
• 74% of commercial radio listening on digital platforms is to existing analogue radio stations, according to RAJAR research

16. Consumer choice of exclusive digital radio content is shrinking
• The majority of national commercial digital radio stations have closed due to lack of listening and low revenues
• After ten years of DAB in the UK, no digital radio station yet generates an operating profit

17. Minimal DAB radio listening out-of-home
• Most DAB radio listening is in-home, and DAB is not impacting the 37% of radio listening out-of-home
• Less than 1% of cars have DAB radios fitted, according to DRWG data

18. DAB radio has limited appeal to young people
• Only 18% of DAB radio receiver owners are under the age of 35, according to DRDB data
• DAB take-up in the youth market is essential to foster usage and loyalty

19. DAB multiplex roll-out timetable has been delayed
• New DAB local multiplexes licensed by Ofcom between 2007 and 2009 have yet to launch
• DAB launch delays undermine consumer confidence

20. Legacy DAB receivers cannot be upgraded
• Almost none of the 10m DAB radio receivers sold in the UK can be upgraded to the newer DAB+ transmission standard
• Neither can UK receivers be used to receive the digital radio systems implemented in other European countries (notably France)

21. DAB/FM combination radio receivers have become the norm
• 95% of DAB radio receivers on sale in the UK also incorporate FM radio
• 9m FM radios are added annually to the UK consumer stock (plus millions of FM radios in mobile devices), compared to 2m DAB radios, according to GfK data

22. DAB carriage costs are too high
• Carriage costs of the DAB platform remain too costly for content owners to offer new, commercially viable radio services, compared to FM
• Unused capacity exits on DAB multiplexes, narrowing consumer choice

23. DAB investment is proving too costly for the radio industry
• The UK radio industry is estimated to have spent more than £700m on DAB transmission costs and content in the last ten years
• The UK commercial radio sector is no longer profitable, partly as a result of having diverted its operating profits to DAB

24. DAB is not a globally implemented standard
• DAB is not the digital radio transmission standard used in the most commercially significant global markets (notably the United States)

These factors make it unlikely that a complete switchover to DAB digital terrestrial transmission will happen for radio in the UK.

With television, there existed consumer dissatisfaction with the limited choice of content available from the four or five available analogue terrestrial channels. This was evidenced by consumer willingness to pay subscriptions for exclusive content delivered by satellite. Consumer choice has been extended greatly by the Freeview digital terrestrial channels, many of which are available free, and the required hardware is low-cost.

Ofcom research demonstrates that there is little dissatisfaction with the choice of radio content available from analogue terrestrial channels, and there is no evidence of consumer willingness to pay for exclusive radio content. Consequently, the radio industry has proven unable to offer content on DAB of sufficient appeal to persuade consumers to purchase relatively high-cost DAB hardware in anywhere near as substantial numbers as they have purchased Freeview digital television boxes.

Additionally, it has taken far too long to bring DAB radio to the consumer market, and its window of opportunity for mass take-up has probably passed. Technological development of DAB was started in 1981, but the system was not demonstrated publicly in the UK until 1993 and not implemented for the consumer market until 1999. In the meantime, the internet has expanded to offer UK consumers a much wider choice of radio content than is available from DAB.

In this sense, DAB radio can be viewed as an ‘interim’ technology (similar to the VHS videocassette) offering consumers a bridge between a low-tech past and a relatively high-tech future. If DAB radio had been rolled out in the early 1990s, it might have gained sufficient momentum by now to replace FM radio in the UK. However, in the consumer’s eyes, the appeal of DAB now represents a very marginal ‘upgrade’ to FM radio. Whereas, the wealth of radio content that is now available online is proving far more exciting.

The strategic mistake of the UK radio industry in deciding to invest heavily in DAB radio was its inherent belief in the mantra ‘build it and they will come.’ Because the radio industry has habitually offered content delivered to the consumer ‘free’ at the point of consumption, it failed to understand that, to motivate consumers sufficiently to purchase relatively expensive DAB radio hardware would necessitate a high-profile, integrated marketing campaign. Worse, the commercial radio sector believed that compelling digital content could be added ‘later’ to DAB radio, once sufficient listeners had bought the hardware, rather than content being the cornerstone of the sector’s digital offerings from the outset.

In my opinion, the likely outcome is that FM radio (supplemented in the UK by AM and Long Wave) will continue to be the dominant radio broadcast technology. For those consumers who seek more specialised content or time-shifted programmes, the internet will offer them what they require, delivered to a growing range of listening opportunities integrated into all sorts of communication devices. In this way, the future will continue to be FM radio for everyday consumer purposes, with personal consumer choice extended significantly by the internet.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Digital radio switchover: legislation is “virtually meaningless,” says Shadow Culture Secretary

House of Commons
6 April 2010 @ 1627
Digital Economy Bill, Second Reading [excerpts]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The switchover to digital radio has probably aroused more interest than any other issue in the Bill except that of unlawful file sharing. The target date of 2015, set by the Government, is an incentive not an ultimatum. We have made it clear that a decision on digital switchover will not be made until national DAB coverage is comparable to that of FM, until local DAB reaches 90 per cent of the population and all major roads and until 50 per cent of listening is through digital means. Once all those criteria have been satisfied, there will be at least two years before switchover takes place, at which point we expect coverage and listening to reach nearly universal levels — that is, about 98.5 per cent judged by television reach.

[…]

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Conservative): The Government have ducked sorting out digital radio switchover, which the Secretary of State has just talked about. They are giving Ministers the power to switch over in 2015, yes, but without taking any of the difficult measures necessary to make it practical or possible.

[…]

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Conservative): Is my hon. Friend content with clause 31, on the digital switchover? It is estimated that the costs to the consumer will be £800 million, and there is no sign of manufacturers of DAB radios producing cheap radios, no estimate of the cost of throwing away millions of existing FM sets, no sign that the motor car industry is going to come up with the goods — [interruption]. A Labour Back Bencher says, “Yes there is,” but I have read all the papers and although there are one or two pious hopes, there is nothing more than that. This will be extremely expensive, and the 2015 deadline is unattainable. Is my hon. Friend content, therefore, or will we make some further promises?

Mr. Hunt: I share my hon. Friend’s concerns, because I think that clause is so weak that it is virtually meaningless, as it gives the Secretary of State the power to mandate switchover in 2015 but the Government have not taken the difficult steps that would have made that possible, such as ensuring that the car industry installs digital radios as standard, as my hon. Friend suggests, and that there is proper reception on all roads and highways. As a result, a lot of people are very concerned that 110 million analogue radios will have to be junked in 2015. In particular, I would have liked the Government to find out whether we could move from DAB to the DAB+ technology, which most people think will be far more effective. If they had done that, this measure would not threaten smaller local radio stations.

Mr. SiĆ“n Simon (Birmingham, Erdington) (Labour) rose —

Mr. Hunt: I will give way to the former Minister with responsibility for creative industries, and then I will make some progress.

Mr. Simon: Given the hon. Gentleman’s desire to move to DAB+, what does he suggest the 8 million people in this country who have bought very expensive DAB radios should do?

Mr.Hunt: First, let me say that when the hon. Gentleman stepped down as Minister for the creative industries, it was a great shame that he was not replaced. It would have helped in the sensible framing of the Bill if we had had a Minister with that responsibility now, but there is none. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is simply this: when we migrate from one technology to another — whether analogue to DAB, or DAB to DAB+ — we need some kind of help scheme, as we have with TV digital switchover, but there is no mention of a help scheme in this Bill. That serves to highlight why the Government have ducked the important decisions.

[…]

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (Liberal Democrat): Notwithstanding the many concerns that have been raised over the past few months about the move from analogue to digital radio, broadly speaking there is now consensus about that measure. The Secretary of State has laid down clear criteria that have to be met on listenership and coverage before the two-year starting pistol can be fired. Of course, there have been concerns. For example, some people thought that FM would be dropped, but we know that it will not be dropped; indeed, FM could become a new vibrant platform for local and micro-local radio stations and given more power. Possibly, Ofcom could start to give them even longer licences. With all the conditions that have been inserted, that is another exciting provision that we should acknowledge and accept so that everyone can have the real benefits of the digital radio era, in terms of greater interactivity and so on. The Government have done a disservice by failing to promote the real benefits of digital radio as effectively as they could. It is not surprising that the Committee in their lordships’ House castigated the Government for their failure. The industry could have done more. It is a pity that it has taken so long for FM to be included in all the DAB radios now on sale. It is only very recently that we have heard of the launch of the mechanism that will ensure people can have a single tuner covering DAB and FM — a single EPG, or electronic programme guide. That is welcome, but the work could have been done sooner.

[…]

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Conservative): I now turn to DAB radio. Commercial radio and the BBC have invested huge amounts in moving to DAB, and commercial radio in particular is now in real economic difficulties, as the report that my Select Committee — the Culture, Media and Sport Committee — issued this morning explains. There is no doubt that one burden on it is having to broadcast in analogue and digital simultaneously, and it would provide some help if it had a firm pathway to a future in which it need only broadcast in DAB. I believe that the 2015 date, which I know is not in the Bill, is unrealistic. It is sensible to set a date, but most people believe that that is probably too ambitious, because of the single problem of car radios. Yes, some manufacturers are beginning to fit DAB radios in cars, but there is a huge reservoir of cars that will not have them for a very long time. We must get to a point at which an in-car radio can easily be converted to DAB. The device that is on the market at the moment, which I have in my car, has so many wires, antennae and bits of equipment that I do not believe it will be taken up with great enthusiasm.

[…]

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Labour): I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) in his analysis of the digital radio switchover. Clearly the industry, in the main, supports digital switchover, but of course a switchover to DAB radio by 2015 is wholly impractical and out of the question because that is too soon. It will be much more difficult to switch over to digital radio than it was to switch over to digital TV, because that process was helped by the mass subscription to Sky and by the development of Freeserve. Such provision does not exist in respect of radio, because there are 120 million radios in this country and sales of digital radio have not taken off. Digital radio is quite expensive and if we make it compulsory, that will be a heavy tax on the consumer. One of the lower prices for a digital radio is about £85, and that price has increased with devaluation. So this would be a heavy burden to impose on the consumer, and if we require switchover, it would leave about 120 stations still on FM and locked out in the cold. We do not have to switch over at this speed and we do not have to switch over to DAB because we could move to DAB+, which would allow both services to be run concurrently. I am worried about the digital switchover for radio, because the crucial factor here is car radios, for which the technology is never sold effectively. Like the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), my experience with DAB in the car has been totally unsatisfactory. Not only is it messy, but it is difficult to pick up a station, and the signal cuts in and out and fades away, so one is constantly having to switch back to FM. Digital car radio sales are crucial, but such sales have been low and there is no sign of their taking off. Only 1 per cent of cars are fitted with a digital radio, and until there is a mass fitting of digital car radios we shall not be able to have an effective switch-off. I am worried about that provision.

[…]

Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Labour): Two great debates on this Bill, with commercial interests on both sides, have been referred to tonight. I will not rehearse all the arguments, but one of the debates is on digital radio. The Opposition Front-Bench team seems to be saying that it opposes the current model the Government are suggesting. The Opposition spokesman suggested that he was now in favour of DAB+. It is interesting that hundreds of radio stations listened to by our constituents throughout the land, such as Minster FM, are being offered no digital future whatever in this Bill. What they are being offered, at best, is a place on a joint FM and digital electronic programme guide that is still being developed, and even if they get on that device, they will still not have all the advantages of potential and so forth, and they will be very much second-class stations. Under the Bill as currently drafted, that is the future. Helpful amendments were tabled by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords suggesting that before any switchover there should be full consideration of all local and community stations. I will re-table those amendments today; I hope that the hon. Member for Bath will support them, and that they might tempt the Conservative Front Bench, too, in the negotiations for the wash-up. There is another side to the debate, to do with the BBC and some other digital radio interests. This reinforces the point that we should still have a full Committee stage — and if we cannot have that, we should pass the Bill on to our successors.

[debate ended 10pm]

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Marketing DAB radio: misleading listeners only damages the medium

The radio medium’s loyalty amongst consumers derives substantially from the trust engendered between the on-air presenter and the listener. Research has demonstrated that radio is trusted more than any other medium, and that its audience feels a much greater affinity than it does with less intimate media such as television and newspapers.

In view of the importance of this ‘trust’ between radio and its audience, it seems a remarkable own-goal for radio to be promoting itself in a misleading way in advertisements carried on its own medium – radio. If listeners cannot trust radio people to be truthful about radio on the radio, then does it not undermine the bond that exists between a radio station and its listenership?

A recent radio advertisement placed on commercial radio stations by the Digital Radio Development Bureau, the agency tasked with persuading the public to buy and use DAB radios, stated:

“This is an advert for DAB digital radio. If you were listening to me on a conventional analogue ..." [the sound of radio interference interrupted the speaker momentarily. The voice-over then continued:] "... radio you might very well hear strange noises ..." [further sounds of radio interference followed. The voice-over continued:] "... which would ruin your enjoyment of your favourite programme ..." [more interference sounds were audible. The voice-over continued:] "... meaning you might miss out on the crucial …" [radio interference sounds could be heard once more] "... but, with a DAB radio, you can enjoy crisp, clear digital sound. To find out more and discover loads more stations, visit getdigitalradio.com. Prices start from £24.99. Digital radio, get more from your radio”.

Listeners complained to the Advertising Standards Authority [ASA] that this advertisement was misleading because, when the DAB radio signal is inadequate, the audible broadcast signal is interrupted.

The Digital Radio Development Bureau responded that:
• because DAB is a digital technology which is either 'on' or 'off', the signal is always the same right up to the coverage limit
• DAB uses single-frequency networks technology where the same programme is transmitted from a number of sites, and DAB receivers add the signals from all the transmitters together, reducing gaps whereas, in an analogue radio network, gaps between transmitters cause the signal to fade in and out as the listener moves around
• a digital radio receiver is not subject to the background hiss and interference that might be audible with an analogue radio, and it is only when the listener is not in a digital station's coverage area that the signal drops out
• electrical interference from fridges, thermostats, motors or light switches can cause crackle on analogue radio, whereas digital radio is not susceptible to this
• the other interference referred to in the advert is intrusion of pirate radio broadcasters that listeners might hear on analogue radio. Because there is no low-grade, cheap equipment available for DAB, pirates are not able to broadcast on digital radio
• the advert sought to promote the fact that DAB radio was hiss- and crackle-free, which the Bureau believed was reasonable and responsible.

The ASA believed otherwise. It said it understood that “if listening to digital radio whilst travelling, the digital signal could drop out when entering a built-up area or walking between tall buildings,” whereas the adverts “gave the misleading impression that listeners would never experience any interruption to a DAB signal, when that was not the case.” The ASA banned future use of the advert.

This was not the first occasion on which advertisements promoting DAB radio have been found to be misleading. In 2005, the ASA had similarly banned a radio advert which had stated:

“If you’re someone who thinks an iPod is something you might keep your contact lenses in you probably haven’t heard about DAB digital radio. With a new digital radio costing from as little as 49.99, not only can you hear all your current favourites in crystal clear sound, you can switch on to a dial-full of digital-only stations specialising in everything from classic rock to books that talk. The future is here today with distortion free DAB digital radio: taking the hiss out of the way you listen to the radio. Message provided by TWG Emap Digital.”

On this occasion, the ASA decided that “not all DAB digital radio listeners would receive ‘distortion free’ and ‘crystal clear’ sound and concluded that the claims were misleading,” it having “received no evidence to show that DAB digital radio was superior to analogue radio in terms of audio quality.”

On another occasion, in 2004, Ofcom banned an advertisement broadcast on London station Jazz FM which had claimed falsely that DAB radio offers consumers “CD-quality sound”. Ofcom concluded that “some listeners, in particular listening circumstances, would perceive a difference in sound quality between services using lower bit rates or broadcasting in mono compared to the quality attainable on CDs.”

There is a recurring theme here of DAB radio marketing campaigns repeatedly being found to be misleading listeners. Their response: just try and try and try again. Perhaps there should be a ‘three strikes, then you’re out’ policy. Do not pass go. Do not advertise DAB radio misleadingly on the radio. Do not continue to abuse the trust between the radio medium and its listenership.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

GERMANY: No radio interest in DVB-T digital platform

The media regulator for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, MA HSH, has had to re-advertise a licence comprising spectrum for the DVB-T platform, this time to television applicants, after its previous attempt to offer the spectrum for digital radio channels met with disinterest. MA HSH director Thomas Fuchs told Rapid TV: “The response to our tenders of DTT frequencies is clear: There is very strong demand for the distribution of TV channels, but there seems to be little additional value for the radio industry.”

In December 2009, the regulator had invited bids to provide 16 radio channels in spectrum that also offered capacity for ‘Visual Radio’ enhancements. Thomas Fuchs said then: “Now that opportunities for development of the FM band are exhausted, we can invite bids to contribute to the advancement of the radio landscape in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.”

However, in March 2010, the regulator had to report that “the interest on the part of radio broadcasters is so low that the Media Council decided, as a result, not to award any radio allocation.”