PC World tunes into gadgets that turn iPods into mini radio stations

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The Independent Online

PC World will today become the UK's first national retailer to stock gadgets that turn iPods into mini radio stations, albeit with a limited broadcasting range.

Although using devices such as the iTrip - short-range FM transmitters that use the airwaves to play songs stored in MP3 players on stereos - is still illegal in the UK, the communications watchdog, Ofcom, is expected to soften its stance this autumn. PC World, which is part of DSG Group, is stocking the FM transmitters from today so that its customers can use the gadgets on holiday. It hopes that moving early will enable it to corner the market in what could be one of the hottest Christmas presents for 2006.

PC World said it would warn consumers that using them is illegal until Ofcom relaxes the laws on FM transmitters requiring a broadcasting licence.

Bryan Magrath, the commercial director, said: "We will be clear about the current legal status."

The ban is based on 1940s legislation that Ofcom realises is anachronistic in the modern age. The UK regulator is working with its European counterparts to draft an EU-wide standard on using the gadgets.

Up until now, many British iPod listeners have ignored the ban and bought devices online or in the US, where they are permitted. The change in the law will hit retailers such as Halfords, which enjoyed booming sales last Christmas of in-car kits that enable drivers to listen to their MP3 players.

PC World will initially stock a Belkin Tunecast II transmitter, which works with all MP3 players on the market, for £29.99. It will add iTrips - smaller devices that work only with iPods although they are not made by Apple - within the next fortnight.

One of DSG's other UK chains, Currys.digital, will eventually also stock the gadgets, which are the only way to connect iPods to stereos without a connecting lead or using specially designed speakers.

Holidaymakers will be supplied with a list of European countries that sanction use of the FM transmitters, such as Germany, Poland and Iceland.