AM analogica addio? I broadcasters tentennano

Il Times di Londra e il Daily Express si occupano contemporaneamente dei possibili destini della radio analogica in Gran Bretagna


da Radio Passioni

Lo segnalano tempestivamente gli iscritti ai gruppi di discussione del Medium Wave Circle e del British DX Club. Sono due articoli simili, ma come fa notare su entrambe le mailing list appena citate Mike Barraclough, quello del Times appare assai più equilibrato del secondo articolo, firmato per il Telegraph da David Sapsted. Ricordiamo che il Times fa parte della galassia News Corp. di Rupert Murdoch mentre il Telegraph, altro storico giornale conservatore britannico è stato ceduto qualche anno fa alla conglomerata mediatica dei fratelli (gemelli) Barclay.
Al di là del rispettivo taglio (e delle omissioni messe in evidenza da Mike sul Telegraph) i due pezzi sono molto interessanti perché puntano a raccogliere il parere delle catene radiofoniche inglesi messe davanti alle richieste di commento da parte del regolatore Ofcom. Le opinioni che si possono leggere sul Telegraph sono abbastanza a senso unico. Lo stesso titolista, giocando sul doppio significato di “wave” (onda e far ciao ciao con la manina) lascia capire che per l’undustria della radio le onde medie sono già cosa morta, con la sola eccezione della posizione ancora ottimista del gruppo Emap (Magic AM)

Wave farewell to AM radio, say experts
By David Sapsted
Last Updated: 1:27am GMT

30/12/2006

Radio broadcasts on medium wave will end within a few years if a powerful coalition of commercial radio interests has its way. Ofcom, commercial radio’s regulatory body, will launch a debate in the coming months on the future of radio. Many predict that it will result in the end of AM broadcasts as we have known them since the days of the Home Service and Light Programme. The growth of digital broadcasts, either on radio, over the internet or through digital television, has left commercial AM broadcasts with only 3.8 per cent of the national audience this year.While the BBC remains on the sidelines — the vast bulk of its weekly Radio Five Live audience of 5.7 million still listens on AM — leading figures in the commercial sector are determined to sound the death knell of medium wave. The commercial stations are having to face up to the dwindling numbers tuning in to AM stations as people opt for FM broadcasts or, increasingly, the higher quality of digital broadcasts. “The current AM licences are up for renewal in 2011 and 2012,” an Ofcom spokesman said yesterday. “The question we have to address is whether or not these stations will be commercially viable by then.” Fru Hazlitt, the chief executive of Virgin Radio, is an outspoken critic of AM. “We pay huge amounts of money to Ofcom for the AM licence,” she said. “Within the next year or two we should switch it off. It just isn’t worth it.” Andy Duncan, the chief executive of Channel 4, predicted that, over the next five to 10 years, AM and FM listening would wither away. Capital Radio bosses have also been calling on the Government to set a date to switch off both AM and FM. Not everyone agrees, however, that AM is a dead duck. Emap, whose Magic AM has been relaunched nationwide, believes there is still a place for medium wave. Ofcom said it hoped to begin a wide consultation over the future of AM. “There could be much more effective uses for this spectrum — it could be used for community radio,” the spokesman said. “The growth of digital at the cost of analogue cannot be ignored.”

Il giro di consultazione che Amanda Andrews propone sul Times ci dice che non tutti sono già pronti a dare l’estremo addio a una radiofonia che ormai vanta la veneranda età di ottanta anni e più. C’è anche chi registra un aumento degli ascolti e nutre parecchi dubbi sull’opportunità di rinunciare, anche tra cinque o sei anni, a un mezzo che può essere ascoltato facilmente, senza sostituire apparecchi vecchi ma ancora efficienti e dando una opportunità in più a quelle fascie di utenza più anziane che non hanno finora molto seguito la “moda” del digitale.

Proposal to switch off AM radio gets a mixed reception from broadcasters
Amanda Andrews
Ofcom mulling spectrum’s future. Some parties also want FM switch-off

At the time, few outside of a small band of scientists and sailors noticed what was one of the last century’s earliest scientific breakthroughs. On Christmas Eve, 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor, broadcast the world’s first AM radio programme, which included him playing the song Oh Holy Night on the violin, from Marshfield’s Brant Rock in Massachusetts. A few shipboard radio operators at sea along America’s Atlantic coast were the only listeners to tune in. One hundred years on and with AM — amplitude modulation — still widely used, the debate has begun over whether the frequency should be switched off in Britain. In an era of high-fidelity competition, of digital radio and internet broadcasting, AM’s susceptibility to atmospheric interference and its low-fidelity sound, making it better suited to speech rather than music, have put it under pressure. It survived its first great challenge, when many music stations switched to FM in the 1960s and 1970s; now, however, leading radio groups are calling for the industry to unite in lobbying for AM to be turned off in 2010. Not everybody agrees. While Capital Radio and Virgin Radio executives are keen to see an end to AM, their counterparts at groups including Emap, which owns Magic, are not. After a recent announcement from Ofcom, the communications regulator, that it would launch a full consultation into the future of both AM and FM radio, commercial radio groups had until earlier this month to respond to a discussion document from the regulator. Ofcom suggested in The Future of Radio that the AM spectrum could be used for Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM). It has emphasised that the spectrum could still be used for AM in the future. However, any future decision by Ofcom is unlikely to be simple, because Britain’s leading commercial radio groups appear to have very different opinions on the future of AM radio. A spokeswoman for GCap, the largest radio company, said that the owner of Capital Radio had been “consistently calling for the Government to set a date for the switch-off of analogue, not just AM”. It believed that turning off analogue — including the FM frequency — was a crucial step in driving digital forward, which it argued was the future of radio. Although GCap refused to say exactly when this should be done, it is understood that the company was pushing for about 2010. Fru Hazlitt, chief executive of Virgin Radio, said that she was also keen to see an end to AM, highlighting its poor quality compared with FM and digital radio. Despite the number of listeners that AM still had, she did not want them to listen to Virgin on the wavelength because of its poor quality.Ms Hazlitt added that it would not be commercially viable for Virgin to broadcast on AM after 2010: “I don’t want them listening to The Killers on AM and I’m sure The Killers don’t want people listening on AM.” Yet Emap, which is working on its response to Ofcom, said that it would continue to broadcast on AM while there was still a sizeable audience. The group said that it had recorded a rise in Magic’s AM audiences and it was still too early in the development of digital radio to talk about AM or analogue switch-off. Dee Ford, group managing director of Emap Radio, said: “We want people to be able to listen to their Emap Radio service of choice, whenever and wherever they want to — be that AM, FM, DAB or via their TV.”

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