Thanks for starting this campaign. Before I discovered it I thought I was the only one that cared about FM – obviously not!
I was prompted to look on the internet for any interest, following the much publicised recent Archers episode that was only broadcast on the digital Radio 4 Extra station depriving, according to Roger Bolton’s BBC Feedback program, two thirds of Archers listeners. I am not an avid Archers fan, but for the first time in over fifty years of radio listening wrote to the Feedback program to express my concern regarding the principle of withholding the ‘best’ bits of radio from FM listeners – this could only have been an attempt to try to force people to move to digital.
I again e-mailed the Feedback program the following week after it highlighted many listeners concerns about digital radio in general in its Friday (19th July 2013) episode and for what its worth have copied it below:
I listened with great interest to contributors to your latest program on the subject Digital Radio and in particular to the Roger Bolton / Ford Ennals interview.
None of the answers that Mr. Ennals gave to Roger Bolton’s questions however were either convincing or satisfactory – indeed his answers were only what I would have expected from a Consumer Marketing person who had landed the job of palming off digital radio to the British listening public.
You will have gathered by now that I am not a Digital radio fan…
This is not because I am against digital technology - on the contrary, digital photography for instance is fantastic and who would want to go back to using VHS or Betamax Video Recorders, but digital radio, as it currently stands in the UK, is different – i.e. it is inferior to the FM system.
There are many issues with digital radio in the UK, the main two being coverage and audio quality.
The coverage problem could theoretically be fixed by spending, or should I say squandering, millions of pounds of licence payers money (which I for one would strongly object to), but even if 100% coverage were to be achieved, the audio quality would still be inferior to that of the FM system.
So why bother? We have in the UK a perfectly good FM radio broadcasting system that covers over 98% of the Nation, has excellent and consistent audio quality (unlike digital radio which can be anything from mediocre to poor depending on the bit rate used at any given time), offers four National Stations, dozens and dozens of local BBC and Commercial stations from the Orkneys to Lands End and a hundred or more Community stations. One of the selling points of Digital is that it offers more choice of listening, but how much choice does anyone need!
In addition to this, FM receivers are significantly cheaper than their digital counterparts, much more user friendly, battery economy of FM portables is VERY significantly better than digital and the BBC time signal is perfectly accurate.
Mr. Ennals knows all this of course, but it is in his interest to keep quiet about it all and to flog digital for all he’s worth.
He said he expected that ‘’in the next two to three years the majority of all listening would be to digital because people are choosing to do that because they like it and prefer it to analogue’’ Really? Digital radio has been available in the UK for the best part of two decades now, but the number of people who use it is still only about thirty percent, so what makes him think that people will suddenly switch to digital in the next couple of years even if coverage were to be significantly improved?
It sounded to me like he was whistling in the wind, but what really concerned me were his comments about FM being maintained and becoming the home of ultra local services and community services and when pressed by Roger Bolton about FM listeners losing Radio 4 stated ‘’ at some point, yes, the major National Services will be moving wholly to DAB and to receive them you will need a DAB receiver’’
He might as well have finished off the sentence by saying ‘whether you like it or not’
I have no objection to digital radio running alongside FM, for those who want it as an extra service, but it should be used for just that (for local and community services etc).
The BBC National services should and must remain available to all licence payers on all platforms.
To try to force people to downgrade to DAB is nothing short of blackmail intended only to line the pockets of a few whilst ignoring the wishes of the majority of the listening public.
Mr. Ennals would do well to remember who funds the BBC and for that matter who is paying part of his salary.
I wonder if in a future program you could get Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey to clarify what will be the future availability of the major BBC National Stations and who will have the last say on the matter?
Michael Riley (Manchester).
I wholeheartedly agree with other contributors to the Save FM Campaign that switching off FM is madness and would deprive millions of listeners from enjoying what has been taken for granted and paid for by them through their licence fees for many decades.