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FrequencyCast UK - Show #24

The show notes to go with Show 24 of our online technology radio shows.
In this show, our featured topic is "Digital Radio"

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This show's news section covered the following stories:

  • DAB in Danger: The big story of the month has been about DAB Digital Radio, with Planet Rock and theJazz due to fall silent. More on this, plus your comment, later in the show.

  • DVD News: It's official. The HD formats wars are over... and the winner is... Blu-Ray. In February, Toshiba finally announced that HD-DVD is dead. From their press release: "This was a very difficult decision to make ... but when we thought about the trouble we would cause to consumers and our partners, we decided it was not right for us to keep going with such a small presence". If you've got an HD-DVD player, it'll still be supported for a while, but you've now got yourself the HD equivalent of Betamax. Blu-Ray players cost from £250 from the likes of Currys

  • ITV Bingo: After the demise of the controversial ITV Play gaming service, ITV's announced their developing Bingo Night Live, to run from midnight on ITV

  • iPlayer on iPhone: The BBC iPlayer will soon be coming to Apple's iPhone and iTouch

  • Online TV service shut down:, a site offering online recording and sharing of UK TV shows, has been shut down. UK Broadcasters weren't happy about their content being distributed in this way, so TVcatchup's Internet provider pulled the plug.

  • Writers Strike: Finally, the US WGA writer's strike is over, so we'll slowly start seeing US TV shows back in production. Good news

  • Closer coming to Freeview: Not much to report in the Freeview world, other than we can expect to see a new radio station later this year. Closer, owned by Bauer Radio will be celebrity-oriented, based on the weekly magazine. No date for a Freeview appearance has been fixed.

  • Console news: 'Wii Fit', the exercise game for Nintendo's Wii is due out on April 25, and in April we'll also see Mario Kart with a wireless Wii Wheel. Nice. Also, Freeview's coming to the PlayStation 3 games console, thanks to a little box called Play TV that plugs in via USB to show free-to-air telly.

  • Podcast Research: RAJAR, the firm that look after audience research for UK radio, has released the results of their first survey into podcast listening. The highlights: 1.8 million people in the UK listen to one or more podcasts a week, the average podcast listener subscribes to 3 podcasts, and 80% of listeners listen at home. 66% get their casts from iTunes, and peak listening for podcasts is 7pm till midnight, so we wish all our listeners a good evening. More.

  • Digital Switchover Poll: Talking of audience research - of the first 1000 people to vote in our Digital Switchover poll - 39% of our poll aren't ready for the digital switch. With the Border TV region switching at the end of the year, look's like the Government's got it's work cut out. If you know someone that needs help or advice on the switch, point them towards our 20 minute "Unofficial Guide to the Switch".

  • And finally... First Star Trek, then Battlestar Galactica... Now Knight Rider. In February, a "next generation" version of Knight Rider took to the air in the US. An impressive 10 million US viewers tuned in, but the critics were scathing. Set 25 years on from the last adventures, Val Kilmer is now the voice of KITT, the Knight Industries 3000. KITT's a Ford Mustang with two swooshy red lights, equipped with "self regeneration" and "nanotech enhanced camouflage". We're pinning our hopes on a 21st century British remake... Rentaghost, The Next Generation! Comments?

Focus: Digital Radio

The main focus of Show 24 is "Digital Radio", including DAB and Internet radio.

We recorded the show at the end of February, following a couple of months of bad news for DAB. First, the national speech service, OneWord fell silent, then the TV-over-DAB TV service Movio went offline, and in February, GCap Media announced they're axing Planet Rock and theJazz. In this part of the show, we discuss the future of DAB, look at some DAB digital radios, and ponder whether the future is Internet radio...

National DAB stations

The departure of these national commercial stations means that there's now only four national commercial DAB stations, Virgin Radio, Classic FM, Capital Life and talkSPORT - We still have the BBC national stations, of course, but with so many spaces on the DAB dial - we wonder whether Channel 4, planning to add 8 DAB commercial stations in 2008, will really be able to make a go of national DAB.

DAB Radios

As we mentioned, there are plans afoot to replace DAB with the newer DAB+ format, so if you're looking to buy a DAB radio, consider getting one with DAB+ (see the list on our Digital Radio page)

If you want ultimate flexibility and futureproofing - Look at the Revo Blik Radiostation - this is a combined DAB, DAB+, FM and Internet radio receiver, offering well over 9000 radio stations. The Blik RadioStation is available directly from Revo for £149.99 or from Maplin (Save £7 if you sign up to Maplin's newsletter).

Revo's Blik Radio

We also mentioned some other radios in our show, as follows:

The cheapest DAB Radio:- The Alba TRDAB2810. At the time of recording, this was available for £20 from Amazon. Also available at Argos

PicoRecording: Some radios that allow you to record: The Bug Too (record to SD card. EPG). There's also the Pure Evoke 3 , Roberts RD1. There's also the Revo Pico + (pictured to the right), which lets you copy files to a PC via USB. Available from Revo.


DAB for your MP3 player - We mentioned the Roberts Robi - An adapter to add DAB to your iPod. At the time of recording, available for £43 from AdvancedMP3players


DAB Wifi USB StickPC DAB radio - We also mentioned the dinky DAB and Internet radio USB receiver that's available for under £30 from Maplin (cat number A15GX)


Portable DAB and MP3: We also mentioned the Cowon iAudio D2, from AdvancedMP3players and, which we reviewed in Show 19.



Internet Radio

We covered Internet Radio back in Show 15. Take a look at that show's notes for PC software and stand-alone Internet radios.

Since that show, two new radios are worth adding to the list - the Revo Blik RadioStation (discussed above), and the Intempo Daisy, which is due out in April 2008


Your comments on DAB:

  • Andy from Harold Wood says he's sad to hear of station departures, but as he's a Virgin and BBC listener, he won't be affected.

  • Keith Curtis says: "Planet Rock is the reason that I got DAB radio in my office, photo studio and bedroom. I listen to it all the time and this will be a huge blow. I bought a small personal DAB with the idea of listening to Planet rock while I was driving and to be perfectly honest the signal is so diabolical that I could drive twenty miles without as much as a whisper. You got to jump through hoops and get everything just right to stop the signal from breaking up (if you are lucky)."

  • Chris from London says "DAB is not dead, but there's no way big radio groups can make money from it. It'll never take off until FM gets a switch-off date".

  • Paul Stoneman says: "I'm a recent convert and think its great. I've bought a DAB clock/radio for my bedside. I can now listen to Radio 4 in the mornings without interference from the various chavs that have set up pirate radio stations here in SE London to play what passes for music in their circles. I listen to mainly radio 4 in the living room via a Freeview box connected to my Hi-Fi. Neither are to Hi-Fi standard but perfectly listenable, even tuned to Radio 3. Its my understanding that the only way to get Hi-Fi from radio is to connect a correctly installed antenna to am expensive FM tuner tuned to radio 3, played through a good Hi-Fi system. All other stations are compressed to some degree in all media. Even Radio 3 is compressed on Freeview on line and on DAB. Has anyone considered that the reason some stations are closing is as much to do with content as broadcast platform. The BBC set a high standard for everyone else to keep up with. As long as the BBC don't pull out of DAB I'll be happy."

  • Neil Fulcher says: "I can now listen to Radio 4 in the mornings without interference from the various chavs that have set up pirate radio stations here in SE London. Has anyone considered that the reason some stations are closing is as much to do with content as broadcast platform. The BBC set a high standard for everyone else to keep up with. As long as the BBC don't pull out of DAB I'll be happy."

  • Thanks also to Paul Harman. He says "I think that DAB will survive. The majority of radio listeners have been brainwashed into thinking that there is only the BBC and so the BBC has a big enough listenership on DAB to justify its continuation. The BBC also produces enough material to fill two whole national multiplexes on its own (at proper bitrates) so would probably snap up Digital1 if it had a chance. Gcap have a history of shooting themselves in the foot, when closing The Storm the natural migration of listeners is not to XFM but instead to The Arrow. Why do GCAP have such a problem selling advertising? I think most local radio stations would give their right arm for Planet Rock's half a million listeners. I think that GCAP advertising salesmen have been focusing on Capital - because they can - and ignoring Planet Rock. Just look at the pathetic range of ill targeted advertising on Planet Rock, mainly small cars with analogue radios of no interest to the majority of the audience, who are mainly early adopters of technology with a few bob to spend on a decent radio. I spent £500 to be able to hear Planet Rock in the car! Let us hope that the current spate of clearing bandwidth will result in some stations migrating to 192K joint stereo so that some good may come out of it."

To have your say, comment in our Blog

Neuros OSD

Neuros OSDThe Neuros OSD. is a rather clever little gadget - it's intended to live in your front room and be connected to your AV equipment. Connect it to a DVD or video player, camcorder or a set-top box via RCA or S-Video, then use it to convert video to an external hard drive or your PC. You can use this to store your DVD and video content into a digital format, for playback on your telly, PC or a portable video player. It copes with a stack of formats, and can also connect it to your home network via Ethernet and play and stream content from your PC. It's also a PVR for recording telly digitally.

The Neuros OSD is available from Maplin


Thanks to everyone who got in touch. In this show, we respond to the following mails and calls:

  • Virgin V+ Wireless? Mick Mathers has a Virgin Media V+ box and has discovered USB and RJ45 connectors on it. He wants to use either of these to connect to a wireless network. As far as we can tell, the USB and Ethernet are for "future use", and we've checked the forums and can't find anyone that's been able to stream / extract video from their V+ box in the way suggested. Mick might want to consider the Neuros OSD we discussed earlier, which should let him extract video from his V+ box, digitise it, and share it to his network.

  • Loss of Freeview channels: We had an email from Gavin Jackson. He's got a Sagem Freeview box - and every so often it loses ITV 1 to 4, and the Channel 4 and 5 channels... normally in the morning. A good opportunity here to plug Show 14, where we discussed Freeview problems in depth. Use a postcode checker to see if you're meant to get a Freeview signal, make sure your aerial is suitable and undamaged, then look at your internal cables - remove any cheap cables, don't have unnecessarily long cable runs, and if splitting your aerial to other TVs, consider a booster. The help in Show 14 and on our Freeview Advice page take you through these steps.

  • TV on a Smartboard: We had a question from on Jean Marshall: "I've recently had installed in my classroom a state-of-the-art, all dancing, all singing Smartboard. It's great for viewing DVDs because I can capture stills from them to insert into my coursework. However, a lot of my resources are still in video format. Is it possible for me to play the VCR through my laptop so that the image is displayed on the Smartboard?" Assuming the Smartboard just displays the output of a laptop's screen, then all you need is something that will let you watch video on your laptop.
    HVR900 For that, you need a USB TV receiver. We discussed these in Show 18. Don't get a Digital one, as they can't cope with a VCR input - best to go for a Hybrid, like the Hauppauge Win-TV HVR900, available from or Novatech.. Connect from the video's aerial output into the USB stick, and you should be able to watch video on your laptop using the supplied software. You can also use this stick to archive your video to a digital format for safekeeping.

  • Freeview Series Link: Alan Hart wanted to know which Freeview hard disk recorders have Series Link features? TiVo had "season pass" and Sky has "Series Link", but he can't find which Freeview recorders have it! We'll, here are some options: Sony HXD860 (with DVD), the Humax PVR9200, there's the Thomson Top Up TV Anytime box (not our favourite). We'd also recommend the BT Vision V box which has a decent Series Link, and of course, is free if you get your Broadband from BT. Links on our show notes.

  • Freeview in other rooms: Geoffrey Miller says: "I've taken the plunge and installed a Freeview aerial and box to drive our TV in the living room. How can I get a signal to the TV in the kitchen? I really don't want to run cables through the house." One option is an AV sender - this will send the output of a set-top box wirelessly to another TV's SCART socket. These are available from Maplin , Currys and Argos. The downside is you can only watch what the set-top box is tuned into. If you're really close to a digital transmitter, a decent set-top box aerial may be good enough to get Freeview on your other telly, otherwise there's no magic wireless aerial socket extender, so you'll have to resort to running aerial cable.

  • Freeview in hilly areas: We took a frustrated phone call from Dundee, where it's too hilly to get Freeview. At the start of 2008, only 75% of the UK can get Freeview, but this will increase as we get closer to the Digital Switchover, and transmitters are updated. Take a listen to our Digital Switchover podcast, for more on this.
    If you can't get Freeview and don't want to wait for your transmitter to be upgraded, there's always satellite TV. Sky's "Pay Once, Watch Forever" is a one-off £75 with no subscription, and the BBC/ITV Freesat is just around the corner.

  • HDMI formats: Sue Permann asks "Can you explain HDMI formats? Which cables should I use? Are the more expensive cables any better than the cheaper alternatives?" The High Definition HDMI output supports three formats RGB and two versions of YCbCr. Many people opt for setting their HD equipment to RGB, but if you have other settings, try them out to see which output type gives you the best picture. As for cables there are some seriously over-priced ones out there which are certainly overkill. More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. Here's some general advice. Don't go for the cheapest. Cheap thin cables should be avoided. Go for "Category 2" HDMI cables (which means they're certified for top speeds of 340MHz, needed for the top HD resolution of 1080p). Keep cable lengths as short as possible, as longer cables are more likely to pick up interference. Look for cables with Gold-plated ends, and if you need a long run, or there's lots of mains cabling close to your video wiring, look for thick cable that can screen out interference. We recommend online store TVcables for decent, well-priced HDMI cables.

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