Letters: You can't rely on digital radio

These letters appear in the Tuesday 8th October edition of the Independent


It is time that Linda Smith, chief executive of RadioCentre, and Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, admitted that digital audio broadcasting (DAB) is unsuitable to be the sole radio broadcast platform across the UK ("Tuning out: radio prepares for the end of analogue", 5 October). Outside conurbations, DAB is at the best a hit-and-miss affair – as is digital TV – and at the worst there is no signal at all.

A local radio and TV retailer admits to customers: "At home I have difficulty getting a good DAB signal, so you will probably have the same problem."

So why are broadcast companies and government so keen to shut down reliable analogue services and replace them with digital systems that do not work properly outside the M25? Personal experience shows that under adverse conditions (atmospherics, harsh weather or just wet leaves on trees) the old analogue services could still be received and understood, whereas a digital service collapses totally.

Also, what happens when the next hurricane shuts down all power and telephone/internet services across a large area of countryside? Your TV will not work, and your DAB radio will be of little use as the reception range is short – five or ten miles – and battery life is very limited. Result: with DAB radio only, no one knows what is happening in the aftermath of a disaster and the Government's emergency plan is in tatters.

With analogue radio, an FM (VHF) signal is receivable 20 or 30 miles from a transmitter outside the disaster zone, and with AM services (medium and long wave) the range is hundreds of miles.

Replacing reliable analogue radio services with an unreliable DAB service is driven by commercial interests that have no understanding of the adverse impact their actions will have on the safety or enjoyment of many of their customers – the British public.

Alex Morris, Wonersh, Surrey

Your article "Tuning out: radio prepares for the end of analogue" has a very misleading title. As the chairman of a small independent commercial radio station, it naturally caught my attention, but on reading further I realised that fact it referred only to the position regarding BBC and larger commercial radio stations.

There are several hundred community-based and small commercial stations in the UK for which there is no plan at present to migrate away from FM. Indeed, it may well be the case that after portions of the band are vacated by the national radio groups, there will be considerably more of these truly local stations available to FM listeners.

Alex Gray, Two Lochs Radio, Gairloch, Highland


NHS is being sold off under our noses

Despite its protestations to the contrary, this government has been intent on selling off our NHS since the day it grabbed power.

Today I learned that termination services in my area, King's Lynn, have been privatised and in order to get the procedure a patient will have to travel all the way to Norwich, adding to the expense and trauma of an already difficult decision.

If I needed oxygen and respiratory support, I wouldn't be referred to the hospital, but to the British Oxygen Company, a limited company with shares and thus, shareholders. Locally our children's psychiatric services are also being privatised along with scores of others. This is taking place beneath our noses and even local GPs aren't being told until just days before the event.

Add to this that GPs are being ordered not to refer people to casualty, and we face a time bomb in my area, because unless at least 50,000 people a year are admitted to A&E a hospital is deemed too small to need the services, so we'll be left with little more than a cottage hospital. I've seen clinical commissioning group minutes from Cambridgeshire, which openly admits it plans to enhance its admissions avoidance process, so making it harder for people to access services. It would appear Norfolk has the same plan.

Don't be fooled, this government and Tory MPs are privatising the NHS, no matter what weasel words they use to hide it.

Jo Rust, King's Lynn, Norfolk


Climate peril underplayed

Environmental Secretary Owen Paterson thinks the recently published first part of the 5th IPCC report shows "really quite modest" changes that are "not as catastrophic as we had been led to believe".

The reason he can think this is that the report is understated, because it is out of date. The massive product of a cumbersome process involving more than 800 scientists, it does not incorporate recent findings that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting faster than had been anticipated, threatening faster sea-level rise, or even a study of nearly a year ago showing that Arctic permafrost is thawing much faster, therefore releasing more methane.

As pointed out in the editorial of this month's Scientific American, the IPCC's method of holding back its results for multi-volume batches many years apart needs to be replaced by a more "nimble" firing-off of specific reports. And Owen Paterson needs to be replaced by someone who grasps the science.

Guy Ottewell, Lyme Regis, Dorset


The apocryphal frog that starts in a pan of cold water and fails to jump out as it is slowly heated to boiling can be excused. It's only a frog. Energy secretary Owen Paterson ("Climate change... It's not all bad," 1 October) has no such excuse.

His comments can only be described as astonishingly ignorant and extremely dangerous. David Cameron can have no excuse for leaving Mr Paterson in his critical post.

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, London NW1


Institutional response to Owen Paterson's comments on global warming is revealing. Last week, in the Independent alone, in your news report and readers' letters, condemnation of the minister came from a range of organisations whose interests benefit from demanding a green economy: the University of East Anglia Research Institute into Global Warming, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research; Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and Global Action Plan all appeared on your pages and, along with many other vested interests, no doubt, vie with each other to get publicity for themselves and the green industry.

There's a picture of the Grantham "Policy and Communications Director" (ie PR man) proudly touting his letter in The Independent on their website.

So maybe it's time for a little healthy cynicism. Words like "institute" and "research" add gravitas and credibility to their message, making it rather daunting for ordinary individuals to want to argue with them.

These people, after all, make their livelihoods from the climate change concept; for them, there must be no other view than their own, while corporations most likely to benefit from their work include, of course, taxpayer-subsidised wind turbine manufacturers. Is that a coincidence? Just asking.

Mike Park, London SE9


Curtain falls on Berlusconi farce

I would have liked your leading article "Arrivederci Silvio" ("See you again Silvio") on 5 October to be entitled "Addio Berlusconi". I, together with many other longsuffering Italians, certainly do not wish to see him again, still strutting the theatrical boards of this unedifying pantomime.

Funny for the rest of the world, tragic for Italy and the Italians, who have had to endure this populist who gave the masses, for too long, their bread and circuses, with his example of how to evade taxes, his umpteen self-serving television channels and corruption trials, among all the rest of his misdemeanours, bringing the country's economy down in the process.

The curtain cannot come down soon enough on his political career. Wishful thinking? I wonder. No doubt he will still be wanting to be the master puppeteer, pulling the strings from behind the scenes. There has been rebellion in the troupe but he is still the one who pulls in the crowds. Can they do away with their main lead performer? One can only hope.

Mara Ralph, Watford, Hertfordshire


Rail lines ripped up in the 1960s

Malcolm Everett' claim (letters, 27 September) that our Victorian forbears "omitted to provide sufficient north-south rail capacity" is misleading.

The lack of capacity now – which Mr Everett quotes in arguing for HS2 – is as much about what was foolishly ripped up or down-graded in the mid-20th century as it is about what was built in the first place.

The Great Central main line from London to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester was built right at the end of the Victorian era as a high-speed main line, and it was built to more generous dimensions than earlier railways so it could take the larger continental European trains. It would be a valuable asset now had it not been thrown away by closure in the 1960s.

John Harrison, Wokingham


My journey home from central Manchester on Sunday was considerably disrupted by row upon row of coaches which had brought protesters from south of Watford to the TUC march. What a pity we don't already have HS2 so they could all have come to Manchester by train.

Graham Curtis, Manchester


Food aid will kill future children

Thoughtlessly providing food aid for children today will not merely mean that they might die tomorrow, as Ray Chandler implies (Letters, 24 September): it also means that an exponentially increasing number of children will inevitably die tomorrow. So will the environment which has hitherto supported their forebears.

I know that the cold-blooded expression of such facts opposes all sentiments of kindness and dignity, but the laws of mathematics apply to biological systems, which include ourselves, as much as they do to the performance of weaponry.

The unconditional provision of food alone or, probably worse, of food and an alien culture, may well increase the eventual total suffering.

Sidney Alford, Corsham, Wiltshire


Dangerous men

Was that a "Spot the Psychopath" photo-competition that accompanied the story "Netanyahu moves to block Iran's return to diplomacy" (30 September)?

Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

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