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Feb 21, 2016
Commentary on the launch of a 'scrappage' scheme in the UK subsidising consumers to replace analogue radio receivers with DAB digital radio receivers, written by Grant Goddard in May 2010 for Grant Goddard: Radio Blog.
THE DAB RADIO RECEIVER
SCRAPPAGE SCHEME: MUCH
TOO LITTLE AND MUCH TOO
LATE TO MATTER
The BBC started DAB radio transmissions in the UK twenty years ago and then, ten years
later, DAB was implemented commercially. During all that time, DAB radio has failed to ignite
the interest of most British consumers.
Neither has this European technology been successfully exported to all corners of the globe,
as had been anticipated. Countries where DAB is working commercially can be counted on
one hand. The end result – warehouses full of unsold DAB radios, billions of pounds of
investment unlikely to ever show a return, apathetic consumers and potentially disgruntled
The one-month DAB ‘scrappage’ scheme announced this week smacks of desperation. In
2009, fewer DAB radio receivers were sold than in 2007. Consumers have voted with their
wallets and remain unconvinced. This downward sales trend started before the credit crunch
but no action has been taken to stop it. The window of opportunity for DAB radio mass market
take-up would seem to have come and gone.
During the first decade of DAB, a scrappage scheme would have been unthinkable. All parties
involved in launching DAB were too busy rubbing their hands at the very anticipation of the
profits that would be coming their way. High-priced DAB receivers, monopoly control of DAB
airwaves and cheap, DJ-free jukebox digital radio stations. You could almost see the pound
signs in the eyes of DAB stakeholders.
How times have changed. The DAB radio industry is now a salvage operation. It is a passé
technology and the current objective is simply to shift as many of those brick-shaped DAB
radios out of storage warehouses as possible, almost at any price. The present period before
DAB is finally pronounced DOA is time limited. After that, DAB radios will become the
Tamagotchi of the broadcast sector.
The most damning part of all this is the boldness with which the radio industry is still prepared
to foist a technology on the public that, in many listening situations, is so technically
inadequate. Instead of fixing the problems with DAB reception (which would cost a fortune),
the industry just persists in maintaining its stance that DAB radio is fine. But trying to dupe
your customers (particularly when radio is the most ‘trusted’ medium, according to Ofcom)
must be counterproductive. Crime doesn’t pay if your business model requires loyal listeners.
Just as damning is the industry’s refusal to accept that it is ‘content’ that drives radio listening.
Why would anyone buy a relatively expensive DAB radio when it offers so little content over
and above what can already be accessed via AM/FM, digital TV, mobile phones and the
internet? Commercial radio’s closure of most of its digital stations, followed this year by BBC
proposals to axe two of its digital stations, hardly inspires consumer confidence in DAB.
Complicit in this is the radio industry’s willingness to endorse DAB radio set manufacturers’
increasingly desperate measures to shift their products. Pure Digital, the biggest UK brand of
DAB radio receivers, is circulating a booklet for consumers to pick up in-store that purportedly
“dispels digital radio switchover myths”. Rather than itemise all of the booklet’s assertions that
are either untrue (“AM services will either move to FM or to digital only”) or which distort the
truth (“Digital radio … crystal-clear, interference-free listening”), I suggest you read it yourself
On the one hand, it will make you laugh with incredulity. On the other hand, if you love the
radio medium, it will make you cry. Sorry, but when exactly was it that snake oil salesmen took
over this industry?
[First published by Grant Goddard: Radio Blog as 'The DAB Radio Scrappage Scheme – Much Too Little, Much Too
Late', 23 May 2010.]
The DAB Radio Receiver Scrappage Scheme: Much Too Little And Much Too Late To Matter page 2
©2010 Grant Goddard
The DAB Radio Receiver Scrappage Scheme: Much Too Little And Much Too Late To Matter page 3
©2010 Grant Goddard
Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of
experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy
roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at