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What His Lordship thinks of DAB!


As you'll read in this speech to the House of Lords, Lord Donoughue is a music lover that enjoys FM radio on a Revox tuner. Unhappy by the spectre of low quality DAB, and fascinated by Steve Green's observations in Hi-Fi World about DAB sheenanigans, he delivered this speech to the Lords. It's funny and informative; it's cogent too.

Published with permission from Lord Donoughue of Ashton

Subject: Digital Switchover

9.10 pm

Lord Donoughue:

My Lords, in welcoming this excellent report on a highly complex subject, I wish to focus briefly on the aspect of digital radio which has exercised others today, and on which the noble Lord Fowler, spoke so well. I also thank him for the fine work that he did as the chairman of the committee

Here I should declare a passionate interest – a lifetime of listening to music of all kinds. As with millions of other music lovers, I listen often on the radio, and this quality of the sound matters enormously. The Proms are best heard on a good-quality FM  tuner radio like my lovely old Revox tuner. Sadly, the plans of the previous Government, which I generally supported but not in this area, were hostile to the interests of myself and many others who listen to music on the radio – hostile because they proposed to abolish rapidly the existing analogue FM system, which provides excellent music reproduction, and replace it with the technologically redundant DAB system, already abandoned in most of the rest of Europe, except, I think, by Norway and Ireland. I will be corrected if noble Lords can fine another country – maybe Estonia. DAB has poor music sound, and almost all music lovers and listeners will confirm that.

The plans were hostile because the Government steamrollered ahead with this perhaps ill thought-out scheme without consulting sufficiently the consumer interest of the listening public. There was, and still is, little evidence of consumer demand for digital radio broadcasting. Television is a wholly different issue; the digital switch over works, and I am very pleased about that.

This question of radio broadcasting matters, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, stated. Some 90 per cent of the population over five years old listen to the radio for an average of, as the report said, 22 hours per week. That was in 2009. Despite the massive advertising campaign for DAB, still only 21 per cent or 22 per cent of listening was on digital in 2009, and only 16 per cent is on DAB even today. I cannot understand why noble Lords say that the consumer is supporting it; the figures are contrary.

As has been said, more than 30 million cars are currently driving without DAB. Despite the well advertised threat of scrapping FM  in 2015, only roughly a quarter of new radio sales were digital in 2009. Virtually all car listening is currently on FM. I often go to hi-fi shops, and the staff there say that the majority of customers are still not interested in digital; instead, they are willing to invest their money in FM  tuner radio equipment, despite the threat of rapid abolition.



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