/ Technology

Your views: FM switch-off threat

Tuning in

On the back of the news that Norway had started to switch off its FM signal in favour of DAB, we asked you if you thought the UK was ready to do the same.

The answer? A resounding no.

As Ian stated:

‘Unless I’ve missed something, not a single poster is in favour of discontinuing FM in favour of the inferior DAB. Well, seems conclusive.’

Chief among your concerns was poor (in some cases, a total lack of) reception, particularly in cars and in rural areas, where radio is a lifeline.

Chris Frame commented:

‘They had better not switch off AM or FM as we can only get DAB occasionally on a good day – and we are not in some remote mountainous area, just in rural East Devon between Sidmouth and Exeter. Not that we can get a mobile signal either – please think about people like us before switching off our lifelines (or better still, do something about getting us into the 21st century!)’

Even those in cities, where you’d think DAB coverage would be good, had problems, as alanblodge explained:

‘We lived in Cambridge until recently, and we were unlucky enough to have a DAB car radio. Even in the city itself, sitting in the endless traffic jams, DAB dropped out continually. Totally useless.’

Other criticisms of DAB was the fact that the signal gets even worse in bad weather and that the radios seem to ‘eat’ batteries and interfere with LEDs – something ralee213 has first-hand experience of:

‘I have a good DAB signal in my kitchen. That is, until I switch on my energy saving LED GU10 lights. All I get them is a massive crackling. I don’t have an FM radio so end up using a tablet for internet radio as it gets dark.’

And although there are many more stations available on DAB, some of you were completely unimpressed by them (and wondered what Classic FM would do about its name!).

Having to fork out to replace gadgets and sound systems that would become obsolete should FM be switched off completely was another bone of contention.

mmrb said:

‘I just bought a wakeup light which only has FM radio as is the case with all wakeup lights which have radio and these are very expensive. The last thing I want to do is have to throw away such an expensive gadget because the radio stops working in a year or two. especially as Phillips and Lumie who make these have not kept up with the times by changing to DAB yet are still putting out new models of over £130. There cannot be a switchover until manufacturers of combinations gadgets like this are even using the DAB technology or unless they agree to take back any models bought today in a year or two if a DAB version is then needed. This is otherwise a financial burden for all consumers and very unfair.’

Others, like Lynda Jane, had the environment in mind and wondered what would happen to all the discarded machines:

‘Before the government goes any further, have they yet identified a hole big enough for all the non-DAB radios to be put in when we throw them away?’

So, considering it’s apparent that there are quite a few creases to iron out before any switch-off is even contemplated and most of you feel strongly it shouldn’t happen at all, we’ll continue to monitor developments.

In the meantime, please do continue to share your concerns with us.

Thanks to alfa for the useful link.


When DAB was launched it was advertised as “as good as CD and no crackles”. Well no crackles agreed – just total drop-outs which is even more annoying, the same problem as when your digital TV pixilates. Lack of signal strength usually as was the case with digital TV trials, but some channels still drop out especially in poor weather conditions.

Audio sound quality depends on the digital bandwidth allocated to the channel, and not all are allocated CD bandwidth, in fact very few are ‘coz the more channels = lower bandwidth per channel = more profit.

Sound quality also equates to broadcast content quality.
1) Some content providers are niche but good at what they do
2) Others don’t appeal to me but might be good in some people’s ears
3) Most are riddled with advertising (same with TV) – even the BBC have adverts, albeit for themselves.
4) I can name only about 10 channels that are consistently good, and just as good on FM which is more reliable. So the arguments for digital are not really consumer based

This debate is actually wider than it may first appear and I think only relate to ‘entertainment radio’. Long-wave morse code is sometimes the only way of reaching some areas of the world, like the middle of the pacific ocean. An extreme example, but analogue radio will always still exist as it has range where digital never will have.

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Marie Harley says:
14 February 2017

My car radio FM keeps me informed amused and awake. Please listen to us FM listeners of whom there are many and I guess older.”if its not broke dont fix it”

Brian says:
8 February 2017

No mention of DAB+ which I thought was promoted to be as good as FM

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Doctor: What about all the fitted car radios which have been installed since the year dot?
We can’t change them all and will there be an alternative DAB for my 1975 Sunbeam Rapier?

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Hi Brian, wasn’t it you who said DAB should never have been fitted as car radio! Will Norway have hundreds of transmitters then? Sorry speaking out of context.

A prerequisite for switch-off of FM should be that the sale of FM radios (including those built into cars) must be banned 10 years beforehand.

Would your proposal also apply to the second-hand market, NFH?

I sincerely hope the FM signal is never switched off. I love Radio 4, but also listen to R2, R3 and Classic FM. I have one mains DAB radio which fortunately also has FM as I need to switch over constantly. I gave up on the DAB portable as the batteries don’t last long enough. I have an old small mains FM radio on the landing, a portable FM Sony in the kitchen, an old FM Roberts Portable in the conservatory, an FM clock radio in the bedroom and a very good FM radio in my recently purchased car. Need I say more?

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“So, considering it’s apparent that there are quite a few creases to iron out before any switch-off is even contemplated and most of you feel strongly it shouldn’t happen at all, we’ll continue to monitor developments.”

How about Which? doing a nice paper on this matter and then getting members en masse to sign it so ahead of the matter the position is known. Let us making the running here, on this matter now. Out of a membership of 700,000 which should be able to raise enough for a debate in Parliament – however if that is too overtly political the knowledge we raised xthousand signatures by directly contacting members with a full case would be an interesting shot across the bows of those thinking to profit from the FM spectrum becoming vacant.

That might be a good idea, Patrick. I was disappointed that Which? did not strongly oppose the roll out of smart meters for the benefit of the industry, and now the cost of their installation is being paid for by consumers.

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for the suggestion. As mentioned, and as you’ve quoted, this is already on the radar of the relevant teams, so I’ll share this suggestion with them. Thanks

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