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Should the UK close down the TV networks to allow for more mobile broadband?

Ofcom is wondering if Freeview is needed in the future, or can we close down the massively popular service to provide more 4G broadband. Freeview occupies 256MHz today, whilst mobile phone services have 560MHz. Digital UK has a report that suggests Freeview is good for the UK.

  Photograph:
Photograph:
published on UK Free TV

From the Digital UK Press Office today:

A new report published today reveals the major economic benefits that Freeview and other terrestrial TV services deliver to the UK.

The report shows that the country's most widely used platform returns nearly £80bn to the economy and challenges the view that mobile broadband delivers more value from airwaves than television.

The findings come at the start of a year when crucial decisions about the future of free-to-air TV will be made by policy makers in the UK and EU. Just over a year after digital switchover freed up capacity for 4G mobile broadband, a further shake-up of the airwaves is being considered to release more spectrum for the mobile market.

Commissioned by Digital UK, the report by media and telecoms consultancy Communications Chambers sets out for the first time the economic and social importance of digital terrestrial television (DTT) which delivers broadcast channels for both Freeview and YouView - and is watched in three-quarters of UK homes.

Headlines from the report include:

  • Evidence of DTT's vital role in supporting UK broadcasting, driving innovation and investment in programme-making while keeping consumer costs down
  • DTT provides nearly £80bn* to the UK - significantly more than previously estimated - and supports 15,000 jobs in broadcasting and independent production
  • New economic analysis showing that DTT delivers more value per unit of spectrum than mobile broadband (see notes)


As the largest free-to-air TV service, DTT creates healthy competition between platforms and ensures viewers can access public service channels without subscription Digital UK and its members (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva) are urging government to ensure any further transfers of airwaves do not weaken Freeview and other terrestrial TV services, and that viewers should not suffer disruption or foot the bill for making the changes. In a joint letter accompanying the report, Tony Hall, BBC Director General, Adam Crozier, CEO of ITV, David Abraham, Channel 4 CEO and John Cresswell, CEO of Arqiva, stress the importance of terrestrial services such as Freeview in ensuring the UK remains a world leader in television.

Jonathan Thompson, Chief Executive of Digital UK, said: "This report sheds new light on the value of DTT for viewers, the UK television sector and wider economy. With increasing demand for spectrum it is critical that DTT remains a strong proposition with the same coverage and range of channels viewers enjoy today."

Copies of the report can be downloaded from The Value of Digital Terrestrial Television in an era of increasing demand for spectrum [PDF].

Notes

*£79.8bn, calculated on the basis of ten year "net present value" (NPV)

New economic analysis: The report estimates that the average value per MHz of spectrum for DTT is 50% higher than that for mobile data and that the marginal value (the unit value that might realistically be reallocated between DTT and mobile) may be even greater. The report estimates the marginal value of mobile data per MHz of spectrum to be £0.19bn compared to £0.47bn for DTT.

Help with Freeview, aerials?
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3 days of analogue to go - goodbye to NICAM 7284
Changes to Saorview frequencies and power levels, 24th October 20125
Northern Ireland RTE1, RTE2, TG4 special mini-multiplex from 24 October6

Comments
Monday, 19 September 2016
R
Richard Cooper
sentiment_satisfiedGold

11:43 AM

David: Hi, David and thank you for your comments on the tuning of home DAB radios and their information displays. I should have thought that tuning into a station by selecting it from an alphabetical list would have been fairly straightforward for anyone who knows their A to Z. As to the information displays, where I would agree here is the 1960s styles of computer 'font' that seem to be used. I would have preferred the displays to be rather more like what I'm seeing on the screen of my 2012 laptop which I'm seeing in front of me right now as I type this response to you. I suppose, however, that this innovation would require even more computing power to be built into the DAB radio, as well as a more expensive display screen, thus raising the cost of DAB radios to a prohibitive level whereby they would be too expensive for many people. Remember, though, that if you are particularly interested in the information displays from radio stations that a large number of them are also broadcast on the Freeview television platform, where you can see full screens of information in better resolution than on the home DAB radio screen! Richard in Norwich.

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Richard Cooper's 462 posts GB
S
StevensOnln1
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

11:48 AM

David: Which model of DAB radio do you have? All mine have a display allowing you to select the station you want from a list. There are various models designed to look like old radios but I haven't used one so don't know how user friendly they are.

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StevensOnln1's 3,397 posts GB
J
J Martin
sentiment_satisfiedSilver

12:43 PM

Of course the government will never compensate anyone when services are switched off. They want to sell all the old frequencies so they can fill the black hole in the economy government after government will do this.

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J Martin's 103 posts GB
R
Richard Cooper
sentiment_satisfiedGold

4:42 PM

J Martin: Hi, J Martin. Try telling that to Steve P on this site and see what his response is! Richard, Norwich.

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Richard Cooper's 462 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

10:01 PM

Steve P:

By the time FM is down to 10%, all the commercial stations will be long gone, and it would only be the BBC that would be stuck with it, in exactly the same way they are stuck with LW, bleeding cash to please an audience which almost certainly doesn't pay all that much in licence fees anyway.

Whether the percentage of digital listening is 50% through all digital platforms, DAB, streaming or whatever (and I suspect DTV will decline overall, since sitting in front of a TV just listening to it isn't really very practical), it doesn't really matter. I remember some years ago much the same arguments being made about DAB, with certain people exultant about DAB's figures. They were missing the point - its not DAB vs FM, its digital vs analogue. And digital is gaining ground, and that will continue at an ever faster rate. When digital listening goes to about 60% overall (and I understand its over 50% in London already), they are going to have to make plans. Give it a year or two.

However, there is no need to panic yet, and a fair number of people will continue to buy (cheap) FM radios, rather than the only slightly more expensive DAB/FM version. Thats OK for the moment. Once the timescale is clearer, then they can put stickers on things, but to be honest, go in most showrooms and you've only got about 2-3 FM only radios (plus those multi-band travel ones). Everything else is DAB/FM.

No, your not going to get any compensation, any more than people who'd bought an analogue TV 10 years before got a new TV. They didn't need one, and shouldn't have expected to.

Frankly, as long your B & O system has an analogue input, you can carry on using it till kingdom come.

Everything from Sonos Connect, to Chrome Audio, to Apple Airport Express, to a simple bluetooth adapter, to just connecting a source via a 3.5mm-RCA's cable (Poundland) will do the job. For those with seperates (and remember that the bulk of people own, as an average, 1.9 radios, and they will probably be less than 5w in output), Richer Sounds will do a DAB tuner for 99 quid.

But the bulk of people dont have B & O or anything else, and they will cope fine.

As for DAB radio useablity, mine just tunes itself, and then I just select from whats available. You can buy ones with larger displays, but since customers seem to like a classic look, the displays tend to be in keeping with that.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
S
steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

10:34 AM

MikeB it's not just the radiogram, it's the clock radios in every bedroom, the FM radio in my smartphones and tablets which uses no digital signal outdoors (often there is none round our way) , the battery radios in bathrooms that currently last 9 months on a set.

I shall of course simply set up a FM rebroadcaster - doubtless illegally.

I will willingly move to DAB when it presents an advantage. But I will need a dozen sets, not one.

Re DTV I have an insight for you. You don't have to "sit in front of it". There is no need to read the on screen message, and the sound from TV speakers works without line-of-sight. In one room we only have TV radio!

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steve P's 1,173 posts GB
MikeP
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

10:56 AM

MikeB, et al:

I have a Bose FM radio/CD player as well as a Bose DAB radio CD player.The sound quality of both when playing good CDs is acceptable. When listening to FM it is better than CDs. The DAB version of the same device is not as good sound quality. I suspect that bit rates have been reduced too far for the sort of sound reproduction needed for some instruments to be heard reasonably well. I have sung in many churches and concert halls for more than fifty years and pipe organs present a particular problem for digital systems as the overtones they produce are not reproduced at all by any digital system - the sample rate is too low. It would need to be much, much higher if the Nyquist effect were to not interfere with the higher tonal quality sounds.

FM has its limitations as well but the sound quality is not as 'harsh' as with CDs.



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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

4:10 PM

MikeP: To be fair, both you and SteveP are untypical of the population as a whole. Most are not audiophiles, dont have a Bose, B & O, or any other system, dont have a clue about sample rates and whose audio system is probably no more than a cheap midi system bought years ago. The best audio in my house comes from a Sony SX5 which I bought stupidly cheap a year or two ago - its only 20w. Without that, it would be some rubbish 15w thing that was bought as an emergency.

If the population really cared about audio quality, then nobody would be buying Beats, people probably would not be buying those portable record players in Sainsburys, we would not use the cheap earbuds that come with phones and everyone would spend about 10 times as much on kitchen radios as they do. In reality, people dont care that much about audio quality, as long as its good enough for what they want, and it fits in with their other requirements.

'it's the clock radios in every bedroom, the FM radio in my smartphones and tablets which uses no digital signal outdoors (often there is none round our way) , the battery radios in bathrooms that currently last 9 months on a set. '

OK. The average number of radios in a UK household works out at 1.9. Which means a clock radio and one in the kitchen, and a lot who have just one radio or none at all. Your very unusual, and so you can't assume everyone else is in the same boat as you.

However, DAB clock radios can be had for 30 pounds each, and your smartphone is perfectly capable of streaming audio from 3/4G plus wifi (I'd be interested to know just how many people use the FM radio part - relatively few 16-24 year old, for a start). Same goes for tablets, which of course have no analogue radio anyway. And by the time you come to replace that bathroom radio, its likely that a DAB radio will have a much longer battery life anyway.

You say you need a dozen sets - so when an FM radio breaks down, will you be replacing it with an FM radio or a DAB one?

'Re DTV I have an insight for you. You don't have to "sit in front of it". There is no need to read the on screen message, and the sound from TV speakers works without line-of-sight. In one room we only have TV radio!'

I'm very aware that you can listen to a TV. But if you want to listen to the radio in a room other than the one the TV is in, wouldn't it be much easier to simply buy a cheap radio, stream from a phone, etc? And TV speakers are certainly not something known for their sound quality.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
S
steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

3:33 PM

Two of my FM Clock Radios are also telephones - economical bedside table use!

At the moment I have backup supplies from my late parents' house - Including a 60 year old Ferranti valve set.

Another point is that all the FM sets are synchronised.

Also, digital time signals are wrong. They should not broadcast deceptive pips.

I am greatly amused that when you spend hundreds on a large TV they try to sell you a separate sound system. We have one with built in forward facing speakers either side of the screen. Decent sound and sometimes excellent stereo effects when they bother to have a suitable signal. How do I hear something well to the left of the left speaker?

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steve P's 1,173 posts GB
Monday, 8 May 2017
N
nicholas
sentiment_satisfiedSilver

1:20 AM

if the national fm is switched,then private rebroadcaster staions are possible,just around yr house,pick up from a freeview tuner and rebroadcast around yr house only.

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nicholas's 120 posts GB
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