Media regulator Ofcom has opened up a platform to discuss the future of radio (including Asian radio) in the UK.

There are some dramatic changes up for consideration, such as replacing AM radio with Digital Radio Mondiale and replacing FM with DAB. These could render hundreds of millions of radio sets obsolete, and either make radio sound much better or even worse.

Respondents have up to Thursday 14th December to comment their concerns to Ofcom. The document title ‘The Future of Radio’ is available here.

Ofcom stresses that nothing has been decided. The purpose of the discussion document is merely to establish the area for debate. It will be followed next year by a full consultation document, which will look at “policy solutions”. Ofcom said: “The discussion document looks at what we believe should be considered going forward. Are there additional areas that we should look at?”

Ofcom’s discussion document suggests that Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) is one option to replace AM radio, as a complement to DAB. DRM already uses AAC, so dual DRM/DAB radios could soon become a convenient replacement for AM/FM radios.

There’s already been an outcry from the industry about the poor quality of DAB in the UK. Steve Green, a Hi-Fi World columnist spoke to MediaGuardian, branding UK DAB quality the “worst average in the world”. He also brought up the issue of launching so many radio stations on DAB deteriorating the quality of existing services. “The problem today comes from adding more stations and reducing the broadcast quality of existing stations – even transmitting stereo music stations in mono – to fit them all in.”

Radio stations can broadcast up to 128kbps on DAB digital radio, however, some Asian radio stations such as Sunrise Radio, BBC Asian Network and Sabras Radio broadcast in a poor 64kbps (mono) to use the remaining bandwidth to launch other radio stations.

For example, Sunrise Radio has used its remaining space in the Midlands to launch its digital only stations Yarr Radio and Punjabi Radio. Sabras on the other hand has A Plus, its own digital only radio station in Leicester. Recently Sabras Radio, which was also previously available on Nottingham DAB multiplex, chose to lease its space to another radio station, as a revenue-making scheme.

No doubt this discussion will raise many questions and may even change the face of British radio. Keep it with BizAsia.co.uk for further updates.