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February 20, 2007

OFCOM: Capitalism at its stoopidest


They lurve ‘market forces’. They like auctioning off radio spectrum to the highest bidder and “letting the market decide”. It doesn’t quite work like that, of course. If Rupert Murdoch wanted to launch an unprofitable right-wing opinion station, he could. And he could outbid anyone. But OFCOM wouldn’t care that much, because “the market” would have decided.

Well now they’ve outshone themselves.

They want to auction off the spectrum currently used by those nasty socialist theatre performers and broadcasters. They tend not to make a profit, so rather than bleed them dry, OFCOM’s just going to make life really hard for them.

You see, radio microphones use the spectrum inbetween other channels. They don’t take up much space, but OFCOM doesn’t mind that, because they’re just worried that the commies are getting away with something for free.

They’d quite like to auction that small bit of space off to mobile phone companies or broadcasters. Even though it would make virtually every theatre production in the country practically unworkable.

They’ve already said they won’t ring-fence any space for High Definition TV services on Freeview. Instead we’ll have to pay – you guessed it – Rupert Murdoch for the privilege of shiny picture quality on our TV sets.

OFCOM’s policy on “letting the market decide” is complete madness. Hopefully even they’ll see sense on this one and realise that theatre companies aren’t going to pay millions of pounds for a tiny bit of the radio spectrum.

January 25, 2007

Bad news for Doughty Street?

But it’s not all good news for the mainstream media either…

Research by OFCOM suggests that there’s little demand for services like 18 Doughty Street which have a deliberate bias.

Preliminary figures suggest somewhere in the region of 95% of people want their news and current affairs broadcasting to be impartial. 18 Doughty Street’s stated aim is to show the news and offer debate with a right-wing slant to it.

Trust in news

I understand the report will also show some interesting figures about trust in various news sources. While trust in BBC News, ITV News and especially Channel 4 News has fallen since 2002, the people’s trust in The Sun and Sky News has risen quite quickly.

Meanwhile, people say they’re fed-up of ‘celebrity’ news, but do actually like entertainment stories. Interestingly, people think there’s too much politics in the news, and would prefer to see more local stories.

And while television and radio tends to divide people according to their ethnic group (radio seems to be particularly bad at serving Asian audiences), newspapers are actually viewed as positively by Asian and Black people as the population as a whole.

18 Doughty StreetOne of the report’s authors, Ian Hargreaves, also thinks that while news websites are getting bigger audiences (27%), the internet might not be an adequate substitute for traditional sources, such as newspapers and television.

Radio in decline?

Finally, radio as a major source of news is in decline – perhaps surprisingly – falling from 59% to 52%. It’ll be interesting to see whether the commercial radio industry take this as a sign they need to invest more in news, or whether they see the trend as a reason to spend less.

All of the figures are preliminary and OFCOM will release its full report later in 2007.

The full report is due out later in the year.

November 16, 2006

Don't touch that dial!

From BroadcastNow (subscription required)

Ofcom has signalled the end of FM radio with a report suggesting the spectrum could be used to make way for digital radio and mobile TV. The Future of Radio report outlines the changing landscape of radio and says the spectrum occupied by FM radio (VHF Band II) could be used for other things as listeners move to digital platforms.

Hold your horses a second, OFCOM!

As Jack Schofield points out in his TechnologyGuardian column today:

British consumers are being short-changed by the BBC’s support for low-quality audio… Recently I’ve been pointing out that the technology used in the UK for DAB (digital audio broadcasting) is obsolete, that the sound quality is inferior to FM radio and that we should be preparing to move to a new DAB2 standard.

FM generally gives better audio quality than DAB. Yet OFCOM want to get rid of FM before sorting out a decent replacement. Nutters.

As Schofield rightly says, the British radio industry needs to make the painful decision to jettison DAB and bring in a better version, using modern compression techniques. Only when that’s bedded in should they start thinking about getting rid of the FM dial, rather than trying to flog as much spectrum as they can to the highest bidder (as is happening with Digital TV).

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