Letter to Radio Times
The interview with Tim Davie on the future of BBC Radio (RT 16-22 October) gives an insight into his vision of the future as far as programming is concerned but again raises the debate about FM radio and its possible "switch off".
Did he really say that FM does not offer, "...what might be called high definition sound"?
If "high definition sound" is one of his concerns why does the BBC continue to promote DAB radio when their own Research and Development White Paper WHP061 observed, with regard to transmission rates, "A value of 256 kbit/s has been judged to provide a high quality stereo broadcast signal. However, a small reduction, to 224 kbit/s is often adequate..."? The BBC currently only transmits Radio 3 at 192 kbit/s (and at 160 kbit/s some of the time) and its other music stations at 128 kbit/s? Sadly the Corporation cannot hope to aspire to the standards recommended by its own technicians as DAB transmitters are already crammed with other stations which, in the main, are looking for an audience.
This is undoubtedly the first time in the history of the BBC that they have adopted an "advance" in technology which results in a deterioration in sound quality for the customer.
If we then turn to the oft repeated mantra that half of all radio listening will have to be by digital before FM is switched off, there is a major flaw in the recording of digital radio "listening" which can be confirmed by a simple enquiry to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) who compile the figures.
The RAJAR diary page, under the heading "Listened" and subhead "How", lists as options: "AM/FM RADIO; DAB DIGITAL RADIO; DIGITAL TV; THE INTERNET". No figure is collated for those people who listen on their DAB radio to FM and written evidence to the House of Lords Digital Report published on 29th March 2010 seems to confirm that this is common practice because of the poor sound quality of DAB radio.
If Mr Davie is really concerned about his listeners and the 130 million FM radios which will be condemned to receiving only Local or Community stations after the proposed "switch off", then he should be pressing for the actual number of digital listeners to be somewhere near 90% before National BBC stations transmitting on FM are extinguished.