New Labour signed secret commercial radio deals for DAB push

Digital radio switchover is unlikely to ever happen in the UK, a radio specialist has told TechEye.

Grant Goddard has launched a new book, ‘DAB Digital Radio: Licensed To Fail, which details why the technology isn’t going to be put through its paces in the UK.

The industry first started talking about DAB in 1980. It was implemented in 1990 but wasn’t consumer technology until 1999. However, according to Mr Goddard even now the industry is still talking about implementation.

The BBC and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, have also been pushing for digital radio to become the standard – claiming that FM radio will be killed off by DAB in the future. It is thought around £1 billion has been spent on the technology by the industry and the BBC

However, Mr Goddard said there were still many problems surrounding the technology and the way the industry has implemented it. he also told us about Government deals with commercial licence holders that had gone wrong.  

“There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It would offer consumers a wide range of radio channels at good quality. It’s the way that it has been implemented in the UK that’s the problem. It’s taken so long to get to where we are,” he told TechEye.

He said due to the slowness other technologies have now overtaken this.

“We can get radio over broadband on mobiles and on laptops. These new platforms mean DAB is out of date. It offers around 15-16 extra channels while radio over the internet offers 1000s. DAB was the interim between the past, which was analogue, and the future, which is now radio over the internet,” he added.

At the moment the industry is still saying that it wants DAB to be the future technology, however, he added that it had been saying this for 15 years.

“The issue is that they are doing very little about it. They aren’t launching new stations or investing to make the reception better, which could make this medium successful. They are talking the DAB talk but not walking the DAB walk,” he told us.  

And like many of us he thinks the technology is obsolete.

“The industry hasn’t said it has given up on it but this will come in time. I estimate around £1 billion has been spent on DAB by the industry and the BBC. With this huge cost it’s hard to hold your hands up and admit it’s not working. It’s unfair on consumers because they are still being encouraged to buy expensive radios but they aren’t getting the content.”

And despite Aunty getting her knitting needles in a twist over the technology, she must know something isn’t quite right with the Beeb recently trying to close two of its DAB stations, the Asian Network and Radio 6 Music, though the latter survived.

The previous government also seems to have shot itself in the foot with DAB.

Mr Goddard spoke of a secret deal by commercial licence holders and the government, which saw holders been given automatic licence renewals in return for investment in DAB.
Previously commercial radio owners must had to have their licences reviewed every seven years by Ofcom, which takes them away and lets others bid on them.

According to Mr Godard last year the commercial radio stations went to the government while Lord Carter was putting together the Digital Britain Review and asked that licenses were renewed automatically. The Government agreed on the proviso that these owners invested in DAB to make it the key radio technology for 2015. This year’s Digital Economy Act also had these drafted in.

“However the commercial radio stations haven’t done anything about this and now the government has changed, it needs to see what it’s going to do about this,” Mr Goddard added.

We contacted Aunty to see what she had to say about all of this. At the time of publishing we are still waiting for comment.