- Written by Ken Kessler Ken Kessler
- Category: SoundStage! UK SoundStage! UK
- Created: 01 January 2014 01 January 2014
Railing against politicians is, as we all know, futile because "You can't fight city hall." Once in a while, however, the morons, idiots, cretins, chancers, wastrels, brigands, hypocrites, and other lowlifes who fill the world's parliaments and congresses do "the right thing," even if the motives are less than noble.
As proof of this seeming miracle, it turns out that the misguided low-rent scum ruling the UK have come to their senses about something crucially important to all British hi-fi enthusiasts, though it's hardly as important as dealing with defence, terrorism, immigration, education, or hospitals.
For some years, the know-nothings (and any government decision-making that involves specific technical matters is usually left to know-nothings) have been trying to ram digital radio down the throats -- or ears -- of British citizens. But not only do the Powers That Be want everyone to go digital; they want to shut down AM and FM completely as well. I don't know if this is the case in Canada or the USA, where I suspect digital and analogue coexist, but Norway and Denmark have apparently decided to switch off analogue, while Germany and France are said to be thinking the same.
In December the British Government decided not to turn off FM and AM in 2015, as was originally planned. Instead, it has been postponed indefinitely, a response to a take-up by the public that has been far slower than anticipated. It may not be the fiasco that 3D TV is, but it's no iPad, either.
Great Britain is, unfortunately, a part of the sinking ship that is the EU, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was some pan-European agreement behind the "dream" of a DAB world, though nobody I have ever spoken to can find any reason -- including cost -- for switching off FM and AM. It simply isn't necessary on any level, and its bandwidth isn't needed for something else. Let the police and emergency services use digital.
Oops: I forgot that digital coverage isn't 100 percent in the UK, and digital, unlike analogue, goes completely silent when the signal is weak. So ambulance drivers, for example, are hardly likely to want a service that could let them down with a total loss of signal.
Indeed, a friend of mine is an engineer who services the various broadcasting masts in the Southeast of England, and he told me that digital is far more trouble than analogue in myriad ways, to say nothing of the fact that the existing analogue broadcasting hardware has paid for itself many, many times over.
It seems that there are pressure groups at work in the UK of inescapable self-interest, the Daily Mail recently naming digital station owners Bauer Media and Global Radio as among those "pushing for ministers to agree to a date to force listeners to switch [to digital]." I wonder whether the readers of the ultra-serious and authoritative "classic" rock magazine Mojo realize that its parent company is pushing through an inferior broadcasting system, in a country that just may have the best-sounding FM broadcasts in the world. Your average Mojo reader is a 40-to-50-something who probably still uses vinyl and undoubtedly has a radio with a dial on it. Perhaps they should be told.
As for Global Radio, why would it want to hamstring some of its best "brands," including Classic FM and Capital FM? Unless I'm mistaken, I don't see either Bauer or Global as manufacturers of digital radios. If that were the case, at least then I could understand them wanting to see the deaths of AM and FM on a purely commercial basis. But they aren't radio makers.
It simply makes no sense. It is a preposterous state of affairs when a government wastes so much time, energy, and taxpayers' money on something few people want. And I don't mean that those who are unimpressed by digital are just audiophiles who hear how awful digital radio really is in the UK. (Again, I cannot speak for the quality of digital radio in North America, Germany, or anywhere else.)
According to the Daily Mail, just one in 20 people have digital radios in their cars, while only 40 percent of new vehicles are fitted with them. As for broadcasting overall, less than a third of radio listening in the UK is digital, and the government has said that it will not set a deadline until more than half of all listening is digital.
Although the take-up has been less than impressive, still the likes of Bauer and Global are pushing for a switch-off at 2018. Among those who will suffer, alongside every FM or AM user, are small, independent stations and local radio stations that cannot afford to make the move to digital.
Apparently, over 80 national, regional, and local commercial stations have formed a coalition to fight the switch-off. God bless 'em. As a taxpayer, I find it disgusting that taxpayers' money (in the form of bankrolling the ludicrous BBC) has been used for something as frivolous and retrograde as establishing digital radio when few want it.
But then that's the British way. Most British politicians are left-wingers -- even those masquerading as Conservatives -- who wave their green/eco/tree-hugging credentials in everyone's face. So how is it that they forgot one key fact during all the years they have been trying to force-feed us digital?
What these morons don't appreciate on any level is that rendering obsolete the 100-million analogue radios in the UK (not counting all the car radios) would result in a landfill issue that even they couldn't wish away. One hundred million dead radios? What part of that don't they get? Maybe they're planning to use the vacated parts of Romania and Bulgaria for landfill once half their populations move to England after January 1 to sign on for welfare.
But this time, common sense has won. As the owner of a Marantz 10B and a DaySequerra, I am sighing with deep relief that the wind-farm-worshipping, tofu-eating, sandal-wearing assholes lost this particular battle.
For the time being, that is.
. . . Ken Kessler