dabThe government is currently reviewing options for launching an integrated programming guide for digital radio sets to make it easier to access FM services, it has emerged.
Under the plans, the BBC and commercial stations would collaborate with manufacturers such as Roberts and Sony to create the function, which would be similar to electronic programming guides on digital TV platforms.
The guide would enable listeners to browse and access stations by name regardless of whether they are on FM or digital, reports The Daily Telegraph.
Currently, digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radios require users to physically toggle between digital and analogue spectrums via a button, but an integrated guide would fuse both station types together in a single list. In-car radios could also be built with the guide in future.

The proposal is being spearheaded by Digital Radio UK chief executive Ford Ennals, who is also overseeing preparations for Britain’s switch to digital radio. Ennals recently submitted evidence on the guide to the House of Lords Select Committee as part of a consultation on the government’s digital economy bill.
Published in November last year, the bill stipulated that the UK’s digital radio switchover could start as early as 2015. However, the FM band would not cease to operate but instead be used for local and community stations.
Sion Simon, junior creative minister, publicly supported the launch of an integrated radio guide during a debate held last week at the House of Commons.
“The current generation of DAB sets has tended to make that move [to a new platform] a rather sharp distinction, which has led to the fear that FM will end up being a second-class ghetto tier,” he said.
“To avoid that, we are committed to ensuring the implementation of a combined station guide, which is similar to an electronic programme guide, that will allow listeners to access all stations by name, irrespective of the platform.”

Roberts Radio chief executive Leslie Burrage added: “The joined-up message is exactly what the industry requires, benefiting listeners, broadcasters and manufacturers alike: common sense prevails.”
The digital economy bill is expected to move into the House Of Commons by the end of next month. However, the switchover process would not commence until digital accounts for 50% of all listening and the DAB platform reaches 90% of the population. Digital presently holds just 21.1% of listening, most of which is on DAB.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael recently warned the government that local stations are being increasingly marginalised in negotiations over the digital radio switchover.

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By Expat