6music’s content isn’t the problem

If you believe the reports in the Guardian or the Times but which the BBC is refusing to comment either way on then it seems 6music is for the chop.

If you’ve never heard it, it’s a bit like Radio2 for the under 50s. Interesting presenters, music you don’t hear anywhere else, new bands, etc.
Due to that, sometimes I can’t listen to it because I think the music is shit, but at other times, it gives people like Adam and Joe a much needed home for their comedy, which might not fit quite so well anywhere else into the other BBC stations.

So why’s it being axed (allegedly)?
Nobody is listening to it.
Take a look at the official Rajar listening figures via MediaUK.
Listening hours for mid 2007 = exactly the same as mid 2009.

In the fourth quarter of 2008 (a high point for the station), the most-listened-to show was Adam and Joe, which had only 69,000 listeners.
At the same time, the Asian Network (also allegedly about to be culled) peaked at 29,000 listeners.
(Figures from The Guardian)
At the same time, Radio2’s peak was 3.07million.
3.07million people listening to Terry Wogan reading out boring listeners’ letters. I’ll never understand what Wogan’s appeal was.

So why is nobody listening to 6music?

I think the problem isn’t the content of 6music, but the fact that it is DAB digital-only.
DAB is a pain in the arse, and it’s expensive.

The main selling points for DAB (to the consumer) are:
1. No interference
2. More stations
3. Better quality sound, including stereo on all stations
4. Easier to tune

Frankly I’ll ignore #4 completely, because it’s so stupid. How hard is it to tune an FM radio? Most modern FM radio just auto scan til they find what you want. And then you save it if you like listening to that station. You know where it is. Hard to tune? No.

#1 is true. There is no interference really. There is obvious dead zones though.
I live in Bristol and there’s a section of the M32 on the way in, where I can pick up only 4-5 stations from the massive list I normally have.
In my old house, there was about three spots in the entire house where I could get a decent DAB signal (all the stations I’m expecting).

#2 is partially true. While there are more stations, a shocking number have gone bust. Much as I enjoy listening to JackFM (not available on DAB), I can’t help thinking that a station without presenters most of the day, won’t last very long.
I used to enjoy The Storm with it’s presenterless few-advert format on DAB, til it went bust.

Music – presenters + adverts = Spotify.
And Spotify has less adverts.

Most of the stations on DAB are copies of what you can get on FM. The number of purely DAB stations isn’t that high.

#3 is laughable.
The big selling point of DAB (over say AM) for listening to stations like Absolute is that it’s in crystal clear stereo sound, nationally.
So next time you hear an advert saying you can buy a Pure DAB radio for around £40, go and look for one.
You might find something like the Pure One Mini.

£40.
But hang on! There’s only one speaker.
The big selling point is that DAB is all stereo sound, but the radios aren’t capable of giving you that in stereo sound.
£40, and you don’t even get two speakers. Rubbish.

It’s even worse in a car.
Not everyone wants to sit in their kitchen all day. What if you’re a courier? How are you going to listen in your van?
When I bought my in-car DAB radio, I could only find about 2 car radios under £200, that featured DAB.

But what if you’re buying a new car? Well DAB isn’t even an option on your Ford Transit van.

So what. Big deal.
Not everyone is a courier.

Let’s try a car. The Renault Clio? Nope.

Maybe you’re loaded. Screw it. I’m going to buy a Porsche 911 Carrera S (start price £70,000)!
Nope. No option, when building my Porsche.

Never mind. I’m rich, and completely bonkers.
After buying my Porsche, I’ll nip out to Halfords and buy myself an in-car DAB, and pay someone else to fit it for me.

Arse.

Having found a random non-mainstream supplier for your in-car DAB, and bought something like this from JVC:

…then you’ll go to install it, and you’ll notice it gets worse.
While normal DAB radios you can buy for £40 seem to be able to play FM and DAB via the same aerial, in-car radios can’t.
Why not?
Who knows? Who cares?! Either way – it means you’ll need two aerials on your car.
Perhaps something like this that goes outside the car, and sticks (to anything metal). It’s attached by a long cable too, but as long as you’re driving a convertible or don’t mind spending all day with the window open (or drilling a hole through somewhere), it’s fine.

And it still doesn’t work in tunnels.