In Talking Radio 1985 – 2018, we will be looking at the promises made in 1985 by the then Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) when they claimed to be issuing new community radio licenses and clearly stated these licenses would be going to new people and not the current established radio company’s.
Horizon Radio first then JFM, Solar and others took notice of what the IBA was saying and ceased transmissions and applied for one of those new licenses. At this time we had millions of British people behind us and had proved there was a need for our kind of broadcasting. Non of the stations that worked hard to show there was a need for alternative broadcasting was considered for a license, which begs the question Why.
Talking Radio Today A Future For Broadcast Radio ?
A future for broadcast radio ?
Try it – Give a portable battery powered transistor radio to a 16 year old, and ask them to tune in a station – you’ll find they struggle, even to switch it on.
In 1965 any teenager would have been very familiar with and have listened avidly to their “transistor”. Even in 1975, as Japanese HiFi boxes arrived in the UK and commercial FM broadcast radio finally began, anyone under 25 knew how to tune to 95.8MHz. Unsurprisingly, the very same people half a century later, are the ones still listening to the radio, on FM.
In the 21st Century, over-55 year old’s fund commercial broadcast radio. Advertising agencies know this demographic ‘cohort’ intimately, they watched them grow up and they are a rarity today, a target audience with disposable wealth.
Gen-Z, born post 2000, a smaller and poorer cohort, access music and information via their mobile phone. They select, share and stream, they do not listen to linear audio determined by a ‘DJ’ …mate. They enjoy clean, distortion free, high definition sound and pictures. They choose the highest quality settings automatically and they find the nearest ‘Wireless’ WiFi, so they don’t have to pay.
Simply put, broadcast radio is in perfect synchronicity with its ageing audience, and like them, it will reach its expiry date. Radio has no future audience.
Talking Radio. Unless, the ‘radio industry’ reinvents itself.
Unless, the ‘radio industry’ reinvents itself to reach the digital audience it will pass into history like the thermionic valve.
Governments around the World have noticed the end is in sight. They are gleefully selling off the frequency bands once used by broadcast TV and broadcast radio to the mobile networks. Unless a broadcast service can be made commercially viable and a case made for its continuance, then soon there will be no frequency to broadcast on.
Perhaps it would be simpler to give up. Pass the baton to Spotify and mobile network operators, allow them to absorb what was once referred to as ‘broadcast’, and become just another ‘multicast-stream’.
The same question is being asked in broadcast television. Who needs ITV-3+1 ? Seemingly, only those who seek electrically operated stair lifts, comfy armchairs, and fully catered river cruises.
Why not just become another supplier of content for Amazon or Netflix ? – It worked for Clarkson.
Back in 1982, HRL set out to widen the reach of radio, we aimed to serve a set of listeners ignored by the artificially small number of licensed FM stations in London. We discovered rapidly there was an audience and our relatively simple equipment could provide adequate coverage on FM. Sadly, our vision and our experience was not embraced by the establishment.
Today, HRL would like to propose much the same vision, we don’t give up, but we are running out of time. Radio can survive, it can have a digital future and serve a wider audience; but only if the broadcast radio industry gets its act together and quickly.
The first wireless was sound broadcasting, way before TV and cellphones. The business case relied on an expensive transmitter network, matched to cheap, plentiful, readily available receivers. A future digital broadcast radio system must meet the same criteria, it must be cheap and available for the consumer; yet it must outperform FM, it must satisfy the high resolution, highly selective, informed and connected younger audience.
It’s a tall order.
FBR (Future Broadcast Radio)
Those readers of a non-technical nature might wish to turn away now before we delve into the abbreviations of digital technology. As we outline our proposal for the next generation of broadcast radio.
Given that the mobile device is the obvious target receiver, FBR must deliver the following;
- Low power consumption, ideally a zero increment over other usage.
- Reception in extremely difficult environments, where mobile data and voice cannot operate.
- Performance which exceeds FM in every respect.
- Quality which matches the highest definition audio.
- Information performance that equates to internet access.
In brief, it needs to work ultra-reliably, sound superb, in a basement, during a snowstorm, while using little or no battery, for a week.
A big ask.
We believe the solution is to leverage the market power of our cousin – broadcast terrestrial TV. Adopt the same digital transmission technology and enable all the enhancements embodied therein to reach mobile devices.
Namely, DVB-T2-Lite and DVB-NGH with MIMO at UHF and L-Band, configured to the most robust FEC and Modulation modes; it could deliver remarkable coverage.
It disturbs us at HRL to discover the UK government has long since sold off the 1452-1479MHz L-Band frequencies, internationally allocated to terrestrial digital broadcast radio. Ironically Vodafone, the new owners, recently paid 100 times the price achieved by Ofcom, they now intend to ‘re-purpose’ this band in a unidirectional mode ! It is to be deployed as a ‘Supplemental’ downlink-only for 3G-LTE traffic using very high order modulation schemes that require a high receiver C/N to operate.
The logical approach to the deployment of FBR is to share both the cellular network structure and the frequency bands that best suit reception in mobile devices.
Ideally, the same antennas in the mobile device would serve both the 3G-LTE data network and FBR. With FBR uniquely capable of its proper role of BROADCASTING, GenZ customers will see added value in their hand immediately.
FBR overlaid with a shared 3G-LTE cellular network would create operational synergies, lower costs and open up opportunities for local, niche and subscription stations.
It’s entirely feasible to transition to a FBR system that reaches a larger audience with more choice, and better performance. You never know one of the stations might be called Horizon.
If you’re still reading this; have an interest in the continuance of broadcast radio, and are prepared to get off your contented backside, we’d like to hear from you.
Talking Radio. Appendix:
For the curious.
- DVB-T2-Lite is the 2nd generation Digital Video Broadcast Project’s Terrestrial specification – Lite is a sub-set aimed at low power consumption in mobile devices.
- DVB-NGH is Next Generation Handheld which embodies the above.
- MIMO – Multiple Input Multiple Output is a terminology that describes the use of multiple antennas and data streams at both the transmitter and receiver.
- UHF – Ultra High Frequency, by this we include the band between 470 and 690 MHz, the diminishing remnant of the once mighty TV broadcast bands.
- 3G-LTE – Third Generation Long Term Evolution, the correct name for “4G”. A bolt on, of a bolt on, of a stretch.
- C/N – Carrier to Noise ratio. The purest of them all, a measure that compares a coherent man-made radio carrier to thermal noise.
Talking Radio, editorial comment.
Special thanks to an old friend who wrote the above, a gentleman who has a vast experience in broadcasting in both TV and radio.
Coming soon on Talking Radio part 2
Chris Stewart looks back to radio before the boats of the 60’s. The BBC, Independent Local Radio (No More). The Unlicensed Broadcasters of the 80’s. How the name Pirate Radio came about. The corruption/political interference in those early days.
Radio has always been looked down upon as the poor relation of television, yet was discovered long before TV and would be our first line of defense, should another larger Salisbury happen in any major city? Taking Radio will look at the current business model of corporate radio and show how radio stations like Capital, part of the Global owned network along with Bauer Media owned stations are killing radio off.
If you love radio like we do, time has come to voice your opinion or in ten years, radio will be a thing of the past. In Chris Stewart’s Talking Radio you will find facts that will amaze and distress you, coming soon.
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