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DAB Digital One - does extra capacity mean stereo radio again?

By James Martin
Posted 20 February 2016, 7.48pm est
James Cridland
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We know Heart Extra is coming to D1, but what of the freed capacity from the move of services across to the new MUX?

Making Radio X and Absolute 112k stereo must be a priority.

Comments

1 year, 7 months ago

No.

Why should a commercial radio station pay a wee bit extra to be in stereo just to please a minority?

If it's because you like hearing music in stereo, then do the artists who make it a favour and go and buy it. Then you can listen to all the music you have bought, when you want - and it'll be in stereo. The artists need to make a living - whereas commercial music stations are giving it to you for free, in mono. Stop complaining.

1 year, 7 months ago

Why should these companies pander to your desires, when they aren't even really providing much of a service anyway. Is there anything about Absolute that requires it to be in stereo? Is there anything about Radio X that requires that to be in stereo?

I don't think there is anything about these stations, or indeed most others on D1, that require them to be in stereo. I'd like to see some new stations, like a proper 24 hour news station, or a station with comedy and drama. I know it's not going to happen, but commercial radio has gotten itself somewhat stuck in a rut, and it does need something different to revitalise itself, help to change its image somewhat.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Those stations don't need to upgrade to stereo as the public have decided to listen to DAB radio with one speaker receivers.

We've now got a situation where we have a second DAB mux testing low bitrate HE-AAC v2 DAB+ stereo, which for music radio isn't very good, giving a 'metallic' sound, while a 80kbps MP2 stream is adequate.

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

Ian said:

commercial radio has gotten itself somewhat stuck in a rut, and it does need something different to revitalise itself

Meanwhile, only two weeks ago, this happened... - proof, if you ever needed it, that what "normal people" want is not the same as what people want on radio forums.

1 year, 7 months ago

No, you're right there James, in a sense. After all, I think we care more about the actual quality of the product, rather than merely how popular it is at that point. The "8 billion fruit flies can't be wrong" idea is a dangerous one to put too much stock in. Also, this is one quarter at this point, and I want to see it happen over a year's worth of quarters, before I really consider it a trend.

1 year, 7 months ago

I wonder what proportion of the commercial radio audience was listening to services on FM stereo?

1 year, 7 months ago

Even if they were tuned to FM "stereo," you still cannot gauge how many of those listeners were listening to it in stereo. It could still be a single speaker on a tranny in the corner of the room.

Radio 2 is the UK's biggest radio station. The bulk of its listeners will be listening on FM - but how many are listeners are listening in a sweetspot, right in the middle between two speakers?

What can definitely be gauged is how many listeners are tuned to mono-only music channels on DAB. What can also be gauged is how many people are listening to some music services via TV, especially those services that do not broadcast in stereo on ANY platform, whether that is DAB, Freeview, cable, satellite or even the internet - and there's a few of them!!!

1 year, 7 months ago

SPOTIFY (and other music streaming services) are in stereo. Some of them are available in super-high quality as well if you subscribe to them. What's more - there are absolutely no interruptions and you won't get a ratio of songs being played to you that you absolutely hate but some programmer thinks you should listen to (in between jingles and adverts). My train journeys back home are so much enjoyable for that reason. I pay for it though, knowing that some money goes to the artists to help them pay their bills.

1 year, 7 months ago

Art, you do not have to stand or sit within a sweet spot to hear good stereo separation. A good radio like the Roberts istream models will give good stereo image as you walk around a kitchen. That is, as long as you are tuning to internet radio output.
DAB on the other hand with its Joint Stereo imagery, does not sound near as good as the output on the internet channels!
Guess what? The internet radio music channels are all free in stereo!

The masthead question on this thread, inquiring whether Digital One will carry more stereo? The answer will probably be "NO"!

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

I pay for it though, knowing that some money goes to the artists to help them pay their bills.

Art - around £50m is paid by the commercial radio industry every year to play music. (The BBC and community radio contribute even more). Spotify, judging by its usage figures, will pay significantly less. So, money goes to the artists whether you listen to the radio or to Spotify.

1 year, 7 months ago

Willie Bone

"Guess what? The internet radio music channels are all free in stereo!"

Sorry Willie - but they're not. There are (very) many radio stations and music channels in the UK that do not stream in stereo. Even if they did, the 4 Scottish-made wi-fi radios that I have in this house only have one speaker and unless I plug them into my hf-fi using the headphone jack, that's as good as it gets.

James Cridland

"_Art - around £50m is paid by the commercial radio industry every year to play music. (The BBC and community radio contribute even more). Spotify, judging by its usage figures, will pay significantly less. So, money goes to the artists whether you listen to the radio or to Spotify.-"

So! That proves my point even more. Commercial stations have already paid a premium for the privilege of playing music between adverts to make money for themselves. Meanwhile it's their listeners who are being free-loaders and getting to listen to 12 songs (often cut short) per hour for zilch. Most people do so with a single speaker device and couldn't give a monkeys. Yet we have other free-loaders who complain that all that music isn't free enough and are expecting to get more free stuff by having all music in stereo, paid for by somebody else - never them - and they'll complain if it's not happening, yet they will seldomly contribute to the music industry or the artists themselves by actually buying all those songs that they want so desperately to hear in anything but mono.

The BBC broadcasts music on its radio stations in stereo - and I would expect them to - not least because I pay a licence fee to help pay for that. I wouldn't expect commercial radio to do the same. Besides, if stereo was so important to me, I would probably turn to their streaming channels (which is cheap for them to distribute as well), rather than another platform where carriage is expensive.

Stereo is a nice-to-have when it comes to commercial radio but seldom a necessity. My wife is a die-hard rock music fan but she never complained about TeamRock or Planet Rock being in mono.

1 year, 7 months ago

"Guess what? The internet radio music channels are all free in stereo!"
Art, I will stand corrected! Nearly all services I listen to are at minimum around 128kbps stereo (MP3) including the BBC & most commercial radio services. The BBC offers HD sound services at higher data rates.

Some external services are also in stereo including Radio Ukraine International and Radio Havana, amongst others.

Indeed, there are some external services currently in mono including Radio Poland and Radio Tirana, even though these broadcasters have adequate bandwidth for decent stereo separation!

1 year, 7 months ago

Please delete this text box which contained a duplicate feature..Thanks

1 year, 7 months ago

As someone who has listened to DAB for over a decade it is deeply disappointing that virtually all national stations are broadcast in mono. I would much rather listen to them in stereo especially as I have a device which has got Stereo speakers. There are some local stations on DAB that broadcast in Stereo so why not the national ones.

By choosing to broadcast in Mono it is an insult to listeners who are used to listening to broadcasts in Stereo especially if they are used to FM Stereo.

I have listened to the new DAB+ test transmissions which are in Stereo it is a noticeable improvement compared to those in Mono on both D1 and D2.

So please if they are any people on here involved with DAB broadcasts can you please persuade the stations to reduce the number and increase the quality and start campaigning for a third national multiplex as well as small scale local DAB multiplexes.

1 year, 7 months ago

Christopher, why not just go and buy the songs? Some stations have such small and narrow playlists that a dozen greatest hits compilations would cover most of what you hear on the radio anyway. Abba apparently only had two hits.

As for your other claim, Absolute does not broadcast across the UK on FM - so it was never available to most of the UK in stereo, unless some people went quite out of their way to hear them on satellite or cable and plugged it into their hi-fi system, or latterly they tuned in on DAB for a few years.

The other national stations are Talksport (a speech station) and Classic FM (which is in stereo on DAB).

Any other "national" stations are in fact nothing of the sort, they are additional services that some companies decided to create, to compliment existing services - or they are local services for some part of the UK but DAB has allowed them to broadcast nationally.

Again, you ask for commercial radio companies to spend a fortune of THEIR OWN MONEY (not yours), so as you can hear something in stereo. If you enjoy music that much why not go and buy it? It's guaranteed to be in stereo and the artists won't starve. Or forever enjoy your freebies, put up and shut up.

1 year, 7 months ago

Art, why have you got a problem with DAB stations broadcasting in stereo? When I purchased my first DAB the commercial stations on-air, which included PrimeTime Radio, Life and Core all broadcast in high quality stereo and that is the reason why I spent my money buying a DAB stereo unit.

I also have a very large CD collection of my own but there are times when I would rather listen to the radio.

Like I said earlier, local station such as Wave 105 broadcast in stereo on DAB so why not national services.

Perhaps if they weren't too busy destroying local stations and creating drivel ridden spin offs just to offer so-called choice they might have the money to offer fewer good quality stereo stations.

As for freebies there is no such thing. I paid out of my money for the DAB unit and the electricity in order to listen to it. I also regularly buy music on CD so if I am prepared to spend my money why cannot cheap skate commercial radio companies.

Maybe its time you shut up about freebies and concentrated and getting good quality radio services on DAB.

1 year, 7 months ago

I do not have a problem with DAB stations being in stereo - or even in mono. Come to think of it, neither does the public, when studies have shown that they prefer to have more choice of stations than a smaller number of ones in better sound quality.

You would have bought your DAB radio at around the same time as I did. The stations that you mention have all closed down because they weren't viable - but at least they were in stereo, right?

And aren't people on radio forums just a bit queer? When we had all those stations in stereo on DAB, they were still moaning because it wasn't "CD quality." Come to think of it, neither is FM. Yet at the same time they nearly wet themselves at the slightest prospect of Radio Caroline being given an automatic right to broadcast on medium wave - or they get quite upset at foreign medium wave stations (with comparatively unreliable signals) shutting down.

Good that you have a CD collection. I have a small one as well. If I want to hear music in CD quality - or even in stereo - guess what I do? Radio would not be able to do that on any platform, although some BBC stations have better sound quality on satellite - but so what! The music often gets spoiled by songs being cut short or presenters talking over them anyway.

As for your other point, sorry - but the costs of buying a few DAB radios and having them for a few years and using them on occasions does not compare to the very considerable costs that commercial radio companies have to pay for electricity, transmitters, capacity on digital platforms, licences, tax, wages and so on, all of which have to take far greater priority than being in stereo for very little benefit. It really would come down to a bit of maths, as in "If we pay x amount to be in stereo, how many extra listeners would we get and will that equate in a suitable return in advertising revenue." Simples!

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

"If we pay x amount to be in stereo, how many extra listeners would we get and will that equate in a suitable return in advertising revenue."

I'd gently point out that if your opposition sounds better than you, then there is a certain attrition of audience away from your station to theirs simply because of the better audio quality. And in a car, the absence of stereo is very obvious.

Perhaps a better, if less clear-cut, statement would be...

"If we save x by making our radio station just available in mono, how many listeners will we lose, and will that equate to a profitable decision?"

What we do know is that AM - partially because of the poor sound quality - is failing. We also know that for most people, FM is good enough. I'm actually unaware of any research into how important stereo is for people.

1 year, 7 months ago

Art, the early digital era of PrimeTime Radio, Core, Capital Life, The Storm and even Saga (national) was when DAB digital was a ''Cinderella'' listening platform and has nothing to do with stereo!
I remenber winning a phone in competition on Saga (digital) back in 2003/4; I am sure my competitors could be counted on one hand back then! (Actual DAB radio ownership was estimated at around 138,000 UK wide.)
Back in the early days, an engineer even joked about him and I listening to Westsound with a listener subsidy of around £40 pounds per head. This conversation took place after I contacted his company to inform that Score Digital Ayr's transmitter at Brown Carrick Hill was on the blink. I was the only listener who complained!

Incidentally, ITN Radio News & Oneword bit the dust as well, but they were mono stations!

1 year, 7 months ago

As far as the original question goes, I would just reiterate this. If you listen to a stereo service like Radio 1 or Radio 2 in a car, and then compare with a mono service like Absolute Radio or Smooth, the difference is clear and instant. The same goes for listening via portable devices on headphones.

Remember, this is an industry that has historically spent a lot of time fine-tuning their FM signals with bespoke processors to make it sound "louder" or "better" than the competition down the dial.

Well guess what? You've already lost if you're in mono. You just don't sound as good. Listeners might not even know why that's the case, but the same song will sound worse in mono.

OK - DAB radio ownership in cars is still low, but most new cars come with it, and there are more and more after-market models, so it's growing. And listening to DAB via headphones is probably mostly limited to portable radios. But were DAB ever to end up in phones that would change.

I know very well that it's a cost/reward equation. And I suspect that James is right: stations know that dropping stereo will cost them some listeners, but they will save some money. What's the right balance?

1 year, 7 months ago

"Well guess what? You've already lost if you're in mono. You just don't sound as good. "

S'funny. Absolute 80's increased their number of listeners when they converted from stereo to mono. This is despite the fact that 80's music is quite overplayed on most stations, even ones that broadcast with shouty processing in FM stereo.

As for mono in the car - well that's been going on for decades, even before DAB. Car stereos have a tendency to gradually reduce the signal from stereo to mono as the signal weakens, so as you don't get increasing levels of hiss. Did the listeners really notice?

1 year, 7 months ago

That's a syllogism.

Absolute 80s didn't grow because they went from stereo to mono. Believe me, I was there, and I ran the numbers on the station. Nobody ever turned off a station because it was in stereo. You don't honestly believe that to be the case do you?

It grew because of demand for the music and it was growing in popularity at a time when digital listening was on the rise. You may think that 80s music is overplayed but that depends on what stations you listen to. And the audience clearly loves it. Absolute 80s has been the biggest national commercial station for quite some time now.

It's true that FM radios degrade to mono. But most journeys are short and in urban areas or on major routes that have good FM (and DAB) coverage. Most of the time those stations are in stereo.

1 year, 7 months ago

No Adam. I was trying to prove that Absolute 80s increased its listeners DESPITE converting to mono, definitely not because of it. So again, this disproves any notion that listeners notice or care, provided the CONTENT satisfies them.

1 year, 7 months ago

And I'm trying to explain to you that the two are not connected. Absolute 80s was on an upwards trajectory regardless - it's a very popular station.

Indeed what we don't know is whether even more listening would have happened had Absolute 80s stayed stereo. However we can't know that.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

As for mono in the car - well that's been going on for decades, even before DAB. Car stereos have a tendency to gradually reduce the signal from stereo to mono as the signal weakens, so as you don't get increasing levels of hiss. Did the listeners really notice?

That happens on FM. Meanwhile, on DAB, you get a wide, noticeable, stereo separation. Flick between Radio X and 6music, for example, and you'll notice an instant difference in sound quality. The average listener won't know why; but the average listener might simply choose 6music because it sounds better. Will the listeners notice the difference between Radio X and 6music? I'd think so.

As I've often said: I'd rather have mono services than no services. And that's the choice that the radio industry has hitherto been forced to make on a national level. Given the choice between a stereo Absolute Radio or a mono Absolute Radio and mono Absolute 80s, I'd plump for the choice of two channels every time. However, this choice is no longer required: at least, the space is now there for stereo services on D1 if stations feel it to be worthwhile.

1 year, 6 months ago

ITN Radio News and Oneword were the two stations that I most miss from a commercial radio standpoint. Not that they were great examples, but I felt that they were examples of the diversification that commercial radio in this country needed to do, if it was to remain relevant to people, rather than just become a backdrop, as Roger Taylor so aptly wrote in the lyrics to the Queen song, Radio GaGa.

So don't become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don't know or just don't care
And just complain when you're not there

Unfortunately, commercial radio has become some background noise, not something that really engages listeners in a meaningful way. Community Radio is taking over that role, both engaging musically with music that you can't find on commercial radio or the BBC, and engaging listener's minds with content that you just can't find anywhere else on the radio dial. There isn't a commercial radio station or BBC radio station that does anything like the kind of content that appears on stations like Phonic FM, Source FM, Resonance FM or Soundart Radio.

And you know something, in a way, that's a real shame. Commercial Radio is a homogenised, pasteurised, sterilised version of what is really needed. BBC Local Radio is far too busy trying to enforce a more talk mix of programming to actually realise that some of the things they talk about have no relevance to people even in the area of where whatever they're talking about is happening. At the moment, only community radio comes close to being what local radio should be.

Adam Bowie, I do want to bring up one point with you, you said...

"...Nobody ever turned off a station because it was in stereo."

I think you're missing the point entirely. It's not because a station is in stereo, it's because true stereo reception of an FM station can be so hit and miss that it's often easier to force FM mono on a receiver, and listen that way, and you get more stable reception.

In Cornwall and Devon, you can be no more than 3 miles away from a transmitter before you lose the stereo sound image on your FM radio, and the radio goes back to mono, but you will get patches of stereo sound image reception quite a bit further away, and the switching between stereo and mono, is in my view, worse than having to listen to the DAB bubbles. It's really jarring. I find that by forcing the FM radio to play in mono rather than stereo, I don't get that switching of sound image.

I suppose this is why I don't see why FM stereo is something that some people don't want to let go of, as to me, it's never been anything other than a technical achievement, and still not a great one at that.

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian,

I was talking specifically about DAB when I made that point. With FM, you might improve your reception by dropping back to mono. That's why many radios give you that option. But that's not the case with DAB. Protection levels do come into play, but the signal whether mono or stereo is the same - and it's probably there or it isn't.

In a rural area with lots of hills, you may well find you lose a stereo image quickly. But in urban areas - large buildings notwithstanding - that's usually not the case. Neither of us will have data to prove it either way, but given RDS and extensive FM networks, most people get good stereo FM coverage most of the time. And a lot of people are likely to be happy with that.

If your experience of FM is mostly mono, then I'm not surprised that you're underwhelmed by it. Music has been made in stereo for more than fifty years now, and even to the least trained ears, it sounds better and more alive.

And I wouldn't entirely disagree with your views on commercial radio. One of the delights of the London Trial DAB mux is a wealth of interesting stations available on my radio rather than the internet.

1 year, 6 months ago

Oh dear, Adam, you really did open up a can of worms this time...

"...Music has been made in stereo for more than fifty years now, and even to the least trained ears, it sounds better and more alive."

A lot of early stereo is crap. One group on instruments on one stereo track, the rest and the vocalist on the other, it might be pure, but it's actually painful to listen to, on headphones or earbuds. And unless you're in the sweet spot for stereo image between two hi-fi speakers, it never sounds quite right. Over the years, it's become less and less obvious that popular music is in stereo. Listening to Taylor Swift's current album, even on a pair of earbuds, you hardly notice any difference between left and right, they're virtually identical tracks.

The only place where stereo actually makes any difference is in classical music, when a good mixer makes the parts of the orchestra appear in their correct places in your ears, that's amazing, and is really something. But otherwise, most music these days may as well be mono, because there is very little real difference in the stereo tracks.

FM Stereo Radio is only really useful in drama, where you can have actors appearing in their required stage positions, and gives you a real sense of 3D space. Otherwise, mostly it's surplus to requirements.

1 year, 6 months ago

I'm not going to get into an argument about the quality of Beatles in stereo or mono. Nor do I think that current compression is exactly wonderful either. If Taylor Swift's album isn't mastered very well, or with much breadth, then don't damn the format, damn the producer.

But yes - with my nice big speakers, or with headphones, or in a car - I prefer stereo to mono, because that's how most music is recorded.

I'll watch a film the way the director intended: 4:3, 2.35:1, B&W, IMAX. The same with music.

1 year, 6 months ago

I definitely prefer music & other programmes like drama, documentaries & comedy on radio in stereo because that is the way it is heard when attending a theatre or concert hall!

Ian, I agree that stereo output on some early vinyl recordings sounded more like the old BBC trade test transmissions for stereo, back in the days when Robin Boyle & Jimmy Kingsbury hosted the experiments. Some of the stereo output was audio separation for separation sake! It really was naff!
However, the stereo experience for most recordings did sound more authentic and for an early 60s PYE Golden Guinea album costing 21/- shillings, it was still worth paying the extra price of 25/- shillings & 6d pence for the stereo version of PYE Golden Guinea releases!
By the early 1970s, the defacto standard for records included stereo.

Also, during the early 70s, stereo on FM was starting to sprout, courtesy of the IBA's initial ILR rollout and later with the BBC national services after the corporation's engineers solved a distribution problem for stereo over its transmitter network.
By the late 70s, the defacto standard for FM included stereo!

I erected a roof top aerial back in early 1974 to capture stereo on Radio Clyde and as mentioned earlier, the BBC stereo output started a couple of years later in Central Scotland.

Now we have DAB with a new raft of mono services.

I have stated this before, I will always recommend friends to purchase a digital internet radio with DAB+ embedded. Even a basic internet radio decoder plug-in like Revo Mondo will guarantee a good fireside listening experience with most domestic stations in stereo on a hi-fi!
The embedded DAB+ decoder is useful, only if the WiFi router becomes flaky and online radio cannot be received.
Also, I point out to friends that DAB+ in its current form is not a playground for the audio phile!

1 year, 6 months ago

The thing that really annoys me is the ads suggesting that digital radio is "crystal clear" compared to FM... Q radio in Belfast for example sounds awesome on FM and you can tell that they've really tweaked their processing to make it sound much better than all the other local FM stations. Then we have their 64K mono output on DAB which sounds compressed, muddy & lifeless.

1 year, 6 months ago

It's rather startling to read about radio people suggesting that stereo is somehow unnecessary for music radio. Yes, a lot of people do listen on single-speaker devices, but does that really mean that all those listening in two-speaker environments should be happy with mono?

I mean, FFS, if TV broadcasters were able to save money by showing colour programmes in B&W, would you really argue that that was perfectly acceptable, and if people were that desperate to see them in colour, they could buy the DVD? Of course you wouldn't.

And the idea that stereo is only useful if you're precisely in the middle of the image is nonsense. I do most of my music listening (radio and iPod) in the car, and I have a reasonably good aftermarket radio with DAB+, Bluetooth, iPhone compatibility and all the rest.

The difference between Absolute 80s in mono on DAB and in stereo via the internet is big enough that my kids (aged 8 and 6) notice it immediately, and they always prefer the stereo. Fortunately I have a 20GB data allowance on my phone each month, so I can afford to stream the station extensively where I have a decent 3G/4G signal.

Who cares that nobody in the car is sat in the middle of the stereo image? Stereo still sounds way better than mono in the car, even when you're sat next to either the left or right speaker (which every passenger is, unless there's someone in the middle of the rear seat).

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian Beaumont said:

Community Radio is taking over that role, both engaging musically with
music that you can't find on commercial radio or the BBC, and engaging
listener's minds with content that you just can't find anywhere else on the
radio dial

But let's be brutally honest here, most shows on most community stations will be broadcasting to nobody. Because anybody can have a go, anybody will have a go, and broadcasting talent be damned. That fact alone makes most community radio unlistenable to anyone used to professional radio. Even the cheesiest ILR sounds better than 99% of community radio.

You're on a community station, do you have solid, credible audience figures? For all you know, your show is listened to by 25 people and a dog, if you're lucky.

1 year, 6 months ago

Gareth Randall;

But let's be brutally honest here, most shows on most community stations will be broadcasting to nobody.

I can certainly imagine that a lot of shows on community radio would be the equivalent of zero-rated. Just in the Falmouth/Penryn area alone, here's all the available stations on FM and DAB that Source FM is competing against for the attention of listeners...

BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 1
Classic FM
Pirate FM
BBC Radio Cornwall
Heart Cornwall
BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC 6music
BBC Radio 4 Extra
BBC 1Xtra
BBC 5 Live Sports Extra
BBC World Service
BBC Asian Network
Absolute Radio
BFBS
Capital
Capital Xtra
Escape To Cornwall
Gold
Heart Extra
Kiss
LBC
Magic
NJoy Radio
Pirate FM/Pirate 2 DAB Opt-outs
Pirate Oldies
Radio X
Smooth Extra
TalkSport
UCB 1

And we're about to lose as competition, to a multiplex that doesn't broadcast anywhere in Devon & Cornwall (at least at the moment)...

Absolute 80s
Premier Christian Radio
Planet Rock

You have to ask the question, how many of these stations are getting the same equivalent of zero-rated hours in the area? I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them weren't getting some or indeed a lot of zero rated hours.

And by the way, I'm not including in that list, a number of stations that can be picked up in parts of the area we serve, but are not aimed at our core area, such as fellow community stations CHBN & The Hub, and stations like BBC Radio Devon, Heart Plymouth, and Radio Plymouth, which can be picked up in parts of Falmouth.

Because anybody can have a go, anybody will have a go, and broadcasting talent be damned. That fact alone makes most community radio unlistenable to anyone used to professional radio.

I won't deny that there are some programmes that are harder to listen to than others. But let's face facts. Being a radio presenter, is a skill. It's teachable. What isn't teachable, or at least is a lot harder to teach, is being a good communicator in the first place.

But saying that community radio is unlistenable to anyone used to professional radio, is complete and utter nonsense. The responses we get from our listeners, on the phone, via email and social media, prove that. They enjoy the fact we're not oil-slick uber-professionals, but real people who just happen to be good at communicating to an audience, even if we're not perfect all the time.

You're on a community station, do you have solid, credible audience figures? For all you know, your show is listened to by 25 people and a dog, if you're lucky.

We've done some research of our own, and we have figures from the streaming provider, which tell us we're getting good numbers overall, and they're slowly climbing, which we're very happy about. We also have a regular monthly music event in one of the local parks during the summer from April to September, which on average gets about 1000 people through the gates every time, which is a phenomenal performance. Overall indications are we are a growing station in the community.

I wish we could get some official RAJAR figures as well, but I don't know of any community stations that can afford to pay for RAJAR figures. It's just too big a cost on a small budget.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Regarding zero-rated hours... I once worked for the market-leading station in one area with a 35% market share. Even that had zero-rated hours. It's not that rare. From memory, one of those zero-rated hours was Sunday at 0400.

I am also aware of at least one RAJAR'd station, on DAB, which is entirely zero rated: there wasn't, officially, a single listener to it during its last survey period. (In the end, it didn't make the released figures.) I suspect there'll be more of those, particularly in local areas.

1 year, 6 months ago

If that starts happening I think the likes of Global would start bundling all the stations numbers together to make them look big.

1 year, 6 months ago

As much as I really dislike mono radio, primarily in the car and as much as DAB is meant to be the future and often sounds worse than FM (despite any hiss). At least 80Kbps mono is listenable. The HE-AAC v2 DAB+ stereo streams at 32Kbps are so awful that it wouldn't matter if it was a mono kitchen set or the car radio, I simply could not bear it. That is not progress for radio. It's finding what is the lowest possible minimum for a critical mass who don't notice or care. Anyone who actually listens or has a pair of ears, can't deny that 32Kbps sounds ropey.

The choice to promise DAB+ as the way forward, provide stereo (and the parametric solution is quite elegant) but then sell space to service providers at such woefully poor bitrates does not bode well. It will end up damaging DAB+ in the UK, which is something nobody really wants to happen long term. People might equate DAB+ with sounding rubbish.

1 year, 6 months ago

The lowest acceptable quality to my ears on AAC+ is 48kbps.

1 year, 6 months ago

80k Mono sounds like I'm listening with one hell of a head cold.

Always said it. If I had my way, I'd demand 112k Stereo or its AAC+ equivalent as an absolute minimum. It's incredibly retrograde. I'd be very interested to see the figures of Absolute and X on FM, against the DAB numbers in the FM TSAs.

1 year, 6 months ago

Apparently the industry chose choice over quality. Although there is an awful lot of so called "extra" channels lined up that are really just playing the same songs in a different order, debatable if that's really choice... Look at "heart extra" it's just a simulcast of what's on heart London at breakfast and non stop music the rest of the day, don't see the point in it.

1 year, 6 months ago

James Martin said, "Always said it. If I had my way, I'd demand 112k Stereo or its AAC+ equivalent as an absolute minimum. It's incredibly retrograde. I'd be very interested to see the figures of Absolute and X on FM, against the DAB numbers in the FM TSAs."

The problem of demanding a minimum of 112k Stereo is that I and many other people would not be able to listen to Premier Christian Radio as the cost of the extra bandwidth would prevent this and other listener-supported stations from having a national DAB platform. According to figures released by the station and quoted in Issue 14 of "Voice of Hope" over 1.3m listen to the station every week across DAB, apps/web and digital TV: we know from figures released by Ofcom and Digital Radio UK that the vast majority of digital listening is via DAB.

I therefore have no objection to specialist stations including the four national Christian stations broadcasting in 64 kbps mono and indeed I am pleased that I can hear Jazz FM in AAC 32 kbps stereo.

May be the large radio groups will decide to take some of their existing mono stations on D1 stereo when Abolute 80s, Planet Rock & Premier Christian Radio finally fully transfer to SDL National and leave extra capacity on D1.

1 year, 6 months ago

I recently conducted a little survey on sound quality on DAB and I discovered that 72% of the 65 respondents would prefer to have fewer near CD quality stereo stations rather than more poor quality stations.

While I admit it is only a very small sample it at least provides an indication that the listening public (which includes me) would prefer to have good quality stereo DAB services rather than the mono sound of all the national services.

Maybe its time, if it has not been done already, that the radio industry did a full consultation with the listeners and if they want fewer stations but which broadcast in stereo that is what the industry should give them and Ofcom and the government should make it happen, with the biggest carrot being a reduction in the cost of providing DAB services.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Hi, Christopher. The industry did exactly that at the launch of DAB, when it was sold on audio quality. Nobody bought a radio.

If the only thing that mattered was audio quality, nobody would be listening to AM. But they are.

1 year, 6 months ago

If you ask in an abstract way then people are more likely to opt for the better sound quality, as it's a more obvious loss.

But it you asked it more specifically, e.g. "Would you rather have:

  • Absolute radio and Radio X in 160k Stereo; or
  • Absolute radio, Absolute 80s, Radio X and Virgin Radio in 80k Mono"

I think you'd get people opting for the latter.

I've deliberately chosen stations that compete with each other. You'd get more polarised opinions for stations that didn't compete with each other, as no one is that interested in having the option of listening to stations that aren't to their tastes (how many Smooth listeners would be happy with a reduction in quality so they had the option of listening to Capital Xtra?)

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian, I think your argument stands up pretty well for classic DAB.

However, we could easily fit everything in at 48k as a minimum (somewhat higher for top-tier stations) for DAB+ with very little compromise on audio quality. My main beef is that as it stands, 32k is becoming the 'standard' in DAB+ and it's ropey as old old rope.

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