James Cridland: The great radio switchoff

Next week in Norway, they’re starting the process of switching FM transmitters off: if you want to keep listening, you’ll find most channels will only be on DAB+ (and online and on the telly).

But: that’s not the only transmitter switchoff happening in radio. AM radio is being switched off, slowly and surely, across the globe.

The national broadcasters in France and Germany turned theirs off twelve months ago. AM transmitters in the Netherlands and parts of Canada also have recently gone silent. Even North Korea just turned off their AM broadcasts of ‘Echo of Unification’, their information station.

The AM band has a ‘revitalization’ program in the United States – which involves, um, additional broadcasts on FM. In Australia, some AM broadcasters are being offered the chance to convert their licences to FM altogether.

What of the future of AM?

For 10kHz-spaced services like the US, there’s HD Radio, which I unexpectedly had in a hire car in Los Angeles a few years ago. It sounds great, but is inconsistent – go under a bridge and you’ll get dumped back into analog for a few seconds, and unlike FM it’s really obvious.

There’s also the global standard DRM30, or Digital Radio Mondiale. The first commercial broadcast of DRM30 from the UK was in 2003: both Asian Sound Radio and Virgin Radio, where I was working at the time, trialled it for a while. BBC Radio Devon also gave it a shot in 2008, with mixed results. It can be an excellent technical solution, but it appears to be moving at a glacial speed: receivers, and full-time broadcasts, are still rare. It’s a real shame.

… read on at radioassistant.com

Originally posted by James Cridland/ at RadioAssistant
6th January 2017

James Cridland is a radio futurologist – a writer, speaker and consultant working with the brightest radio brains in the world. He has worked for the BBC and Virgin Radio in London. Join over 2,500 other radio professionals and subscribe to his free weekly newsletter (in English) at https://james.cridland.net