Digital radio is coming home! The first sub-£99 set is announced by Videologic -- the start of a range the company has planned -- while all the BBC's radio channels will be carried as part of the new terrestrial digital TV licence awarded after the demise of ITV Digital.
Which means, I calculate, that a fully equipped household now has seven ways to receive Radio 4 -- analogue FM, long wave, Sky, cable, streamed Internet, DAB radio and digital terrestrial TV. Add in the Worldspace digital radio satellite carrying the World Service, shortwave and the odd medium wave relay transmitter, and we're easily into double figures for those really keen on their BBC speech radio.
Fan as I am of Aunty and Radio 4 in all its rather stuffy wonderfulness, isn't this a little excessive? If you're not the BBC, it takes forever to get permission to broadcast so much as a local signal on FM -- and forget about setting up national services. Webcasting is getting increasingly difficult; the bandwidth isn't cheap, and the licensing conditions for music and other copyright material is likely to be even more onerous than for radio.
This isn't the best use of new technology. With every new set of broadcasting channels, regulation should get looser and access should get easier. It's one thing to keep a tight grip on broadcasting when it's necessarily limited, but we're past those days now. A regulator worth its salt would include public access and diversity requirements on anyone who takes over a national transmission medium -- but not, it seems, in the UK, where we get the BBC and Sky doing what the BBC and Sky do anyway.
Not very good, chaps.