Would UK Regulators Kill Off AM/FM Radio To Make Better Use Of Spectrum?

from the that-would-be-big dept

A year and a half ago, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that UK telecom regulatory agency, Ofcom, was moving forward with a plan to make a much more open marketplace for spectrum. Traditionally, regulatory agencies have simply assigned spectrum for certain purposes. That is, they'll designate a certain spectrum for TV or radio or broadband or cellular communications. In recent years, they then would let companies bid on spectrum, but only to be used for the pre-designated purpose. Ofcom realized how inefficient that idea is, and claimed that the new policy would be to simply auction off the spectrum and allow it to be put to use in whatever manner made the most sense. That's a huge step forward. However, even knowing that, it's a bit surprising to hear that Ofcom is now considering pulling the plug on AM and FM radio in order to put that spectrum to better use. Apparently, the regulators aren't shy in saying they believe traditional radio is a dying medium, and there's little point in prolonging its suffering when the spectrum could be used for much better purposes, including radio replacements. That's quite a statement, and not the sort of thing you'd expect from regulators -- but once again, Ofcom seems to be taking a pretty forward-thinking stance.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    SPR, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:10am

    AM/FM Radio

    The radio has become the most widely used media outlet to get the broadest view of what is happening in the world today. Print media and television have become so biased that they are unreliable for the truth. So, it only makes sense that government would want to shut that down.

     

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  2.  
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    Peter, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:12am

    To SPR:

    Spot on

     

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  3.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:18am

    Re: AM/FM Radio

    have you listened to news on the radio? it's either akin to reading just an article's headline or it has the same polarized skew as the rest of the forms of media that give out news.

     

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  4.  
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    comboman, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:23am

    Emergency use?

    The next time a hurricane, earthquake or flood takes out your electricity, cable, internet, cell-network, etc. and all you have to rely on for information is a battery-powered or hand-cranked AM/FM radio, let me know how "forward-thinking" it was sell off that spectrum.

     

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  5.  
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    PTTG, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:23am

    Sounds good to me....

    BUT I'm wondering abou third-party and end user issues - ham radio operators, "pirate" stations and so on. Perhaps a few sections would be left open for private use?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:26am

    If you believe there is no bias in radio I've got some land I want to sell you. Bias is everywhere. Televison, radio, print, the internet and any other possible way of communication is subject to bias. Mainly because everyones perception of reality is slighty different, therefore nearly anyone can find bias in something.

     

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  7.  
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    qkslvrwolf, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:43am

    What about public good?

    I have to admit that for the most part, I can appreciate using the market to determine the most useful use the spectrum, but I also think that spectrum is a PUBLIC property, and some of it needs to be reserved for public use. For instance, the public radio stations that used to be so common in the states but have died off.

    I also think that rather than "purchasing" the spectrum, companies should only be allowed to lease it, and in doing so would agree to provide for public use if needed.

     

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  8.  
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    Former Radio God, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:54am

    It's over. Move along.

    Radio IS dead.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:57am

    Have some faith...

    Im sure there will be hand-cranked digital emergency radios on the market as soon as there are no more analog channels for your old hand-cranked emergency radio to tune. Didn't I hear something about a cheap hand-cranked laptop?

     

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  10.  
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    Bob, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:58am

    We didnt need radio 200 years ago and we dont need it now

     

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  11.  
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    E, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 10:58am

    Re: AM/FM Radio by SPR

    QUICK, SOMEONE GET THIS MAN THE INTERNET!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: AM/FM Radio

    I'll defend the original poster only on the off chance he's not American..

    Because if he thinks Sean Hannity is completely fair and balanced, he doesnt understand the meaning of 'entertainment' talk show host. Not that I don't listen to Neal Boortz myself (admitted yesterday he's a talk-jockey :P), I just understand that it's not an unbiased medium.

    However, if you're in England, I've noticed BBC for example is rather more balanced than CNN or FOX, though it does lean slightly left in oh-so-subtle ways (sympathetically giving news articles to liberal causes, expounding more upon liberal grievances than conservative ones, etc). At least, on the website. But still. It may very well be *less* biased in the radio over there, but not unbiased.

     

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  13.  
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    discojohnson, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:30am

    not so fast, mike

    Ofcom realized how inefficient that idea is, and claimed that the new policy would be to simply auction off the spectrum and allow it to be put to use in whatever manner made the most sense. That's a huge step forward.

    imagine for a second that company TerrestialRadio buys spectrum X. now the only way to listen to said radio is to buy one of the TR radios from their store. ok, free market (sirrius? xm?) says go ahead. now the money we've all sunk into having a radio that "just works" when we're in the car is obsolete. ok, fine. i say eventually you'll have a monopoly or oligopoly of radio providers that will then have to be busted up and regulated again. could the FM/AM band be used more effectively? who knows for sure, but why kill an industry when there is a relative fjck-ton of spectrum out there. it's akin to selling off the spectrum that we use for TV...but replacing it so that the standards are not enforceable. i know my point has flaws, but i feel the root of it has true merit

     

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  14.  
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    sean, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:31am

    I would Love for FM to die off and put internet in that spectrum so I can finaly have internet radio at all times in the car and listen to my WOXY.com again

     

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  15.  
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    WhyNotSellItAll, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:31am

    Wouldn't this line of thinking also say that we could make better use of parkland if we sold it off?

    What about all the land occupied by schools, universities, airports, and public hospitals?

    Roads. They really take up a lot of space that could be auctioned off. Let's sell them all. If someone wants to go somewhere let them negotiate with each landowner for the right to cross their property.

    Privitization has its merits, but it can go too far. Maintaining some things (like roads) for public use makes the rest of the economy work.

     

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  16.  
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    Monarch, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:32am

    An unbiased show or news program, for the most part, would be bland and boring to listen to or watch. Yes, some news should get reported with an unbiased view, facts only. But what makes the radio great, are the opinions and biases of the people who discuss the news. People love to listen to those they don't agree with as well as those they agree with. It's what makes talk radio so excellent, the controversy in discussing the news.

     

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  17.  
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    Stu, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:33am

    "forward-thinking stance" ???

    Are you kidding?

    Instead of the spectrum being owned by the public "in common", it will be owned by the highest bidder.

    Who do you think is behind that idea? Big business? Ya think?

    Some things are simply not to be privatized!

    I suggest every one see the movie "Rollerball" - in which the Robert Duvall character said, "There are no countries, just companies". (or very close to that)

    No thanks. I'd rather be a citizen of a country than nothing more than a customer.

     

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  18.  
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    Stu, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:38am

    And while I'm at it . . . .

    "Make Better Use Of Spectrum" ??

    By whose standards?

    This is a money grab.

    Kudos to WhyNotSellItAll - except you didn't go far enough. :)))

     

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  19.  
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    DKP, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:39am

    Re: Sounds good to me....

    no even in the US ham radio frequencies are being given to the telcom industries.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 11:48am

    Oh Noes! Everyone in the UK will have to listen to Howard Stern on Sirius radio and they will all become fat, murdering, rapists!

     

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  21.  
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    Mike (profile), Nov 28th, 2006 @ 1:23pm

    Re:

    Instead of the spectrum being owned by the public "in common", it will be owned by the highest bidder.

    Heh. You mean you prefer it now that massive amounts of useful spectrum has been tied up by a few broadcast companies who were given their spectrum for free?

    And now that Ofcom actually wants to allow the market to decide what it's useful for, you're going to complain? Where were you when the spectrum was being doled out before?

    You're wrong to think this is a big business money grab. It's nothing of the sort. It's actually taking away wasted spectrum and doing something useful with it.

     

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  22.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 7:13pm

    AM/FM radio is good enough, it has what ppl want, it works, and it is simple enough that recievers can be made for a few $. Also, those who have digital terrrestrial TV will know this, when the digital signal ggets weak, the sound dies frits, then the picture turns to a wierd pixelated mess, and then dies altogether, whereas with analouge TV the image and ssound just get progressively more snowy and staticy respectively. my point is that digital is an all-or-nothing service, while analouge you can often get something, even if it is not good (after all, on SW, you can get World Service on most ofthe earth, even if the quality is crap, it is intelligible).

    The curren Labour Govt. is too keen to privatise everything, they should have learnt hier lesson when they had to undo the privatisation of Railtrack to set it up as a non-profit company.

     

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  23.  
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    Kent Smith, Nov 29th, 2006 @ 2:44pm

    Bring on cheap digital to am/fm modulators for existing receivers! :)

     

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  24.  
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    John Mumford, Dec 1st, 2006 @ 9:58am

    Re: AM/FM Radio

    I so agree. However, radio stations are not always completely unbiased.

    I have an old but still working Grundig Sattelit 2000 in the kitchen. (Communications Receiver) Been there for 30+ years. I often listen to news broadcasts (in english) from around the world. It used to be, in my opinion, BBC World Service was the most balanced. One now needs to listen worldwide to access what is the truth.

    In my opinion the news media in the UK is generally biased & censored. Its news items must conform to their own pre conceived opinions, and modified accordingly. Tailored to fit in to their great scheme of things.

    It would be so much better if they just told the plain truth, impatially, without underlying motives. They should not be in the propaganda business. I suspect they completely underestimate the intelligence of the average listener/viewer. Many made brain dead with such progs as I'm a celebrity get me out of here, X factor, ect.

    Of course, for the socio humanist who thinks he / or she is simply a 'product of chance' in a 'time + chance + change environment,' I'm sure BBC Radio 4 amply supplies all their needs admirably. Contrary views to the accepted norm, i.e. Creation Scientists, Anti Evolutionists, etc. never given the light of day, or watered down, heavily edited, or made to look ridiculous. The way something is said can completely alter it's meaning. In my opinion, the BBC are experts in that field.

    I mean, with most of the UK educational system based on naturalist premise, through media propaganda largely rather than personal research, then pride forbids shear unadulterated honesty. Or daring to go out on a limb.

    Yes, our freedom is being eroded. What is actual truth, lost in a sea of relative thinking on tv in particular. (I never purchase newspapers, so cannot offer an opinion) Agreed, there must be some controls and regulation, but to what extent?

    How easy is it now to purchase a radio with fm, am, & sw? Little demand, heavy price if one can be bought at all. As the old Grundig, despite steam, a few fat fires etc. (in the kitchen) is still working as good as new, I have not needed to find out. (But then, I still prefer analogue sound)

    Recently paid 200 for a radio. Inc CD, Cassette Player. Frequencies available, very limited, 'very easily controlled.' Nice & conformist to EEC regs.

    We do, of course, have Sky, but no doubt censored! We pay to watch adverts. Thank goodness for plus. (Record and whizz by the commercial breaks).

    Some years ago I had my own frequency, like a taxi band which I used in my business. When the guy from the Home Office, at that time, came to check it was ok and legit, he was more interested in what radio stations I listened to on the Grundig. He was the type of person that made you feel guilty, even though you had not done anything.

    Suggest, if possible now, a good short wave receiver. Or are they called scanners now? Despite crackles & pops ones spectrum can be broadened and balanced opinions made. It would be very difficult, if not impossible for the Government to stop all incoming am / sw transmissions.

    Mind you, we might experience little men in grey coats seated in a car outside the front door depending what was listened to!! Non conformists (I mean people that can think for themselves and see through media bias) are gradually being squeezed out. By propaganda.

    John

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 7:48am

    Re: AM/FM Radio

    I'm not exactly sure if you are referring to British radio, American...what have you, but the last time I checked, AM radio contained some of the most biased media in existence: Air America, Rush Limbaugh...

     

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