Despite earning the long running tag of ‘Auntie’, the BBC is possibly one of the most innovative and forward thinking organisations around. Riyad recently praised it for its superb online World Cup coverage and now it is looking to widen the net again by stepping into hardware.
Still at the drawing board stage, the company plans to create a plug-in gadget that will transform MP3 players into DAB radios.
"It's important for to us to make sure that people can listen to digital radio on their own terms," said a BBC spokesman who confirmed that the device would not be limited to its own radio stations. "We have a duty to make sure digital radio is relevant and clearly portable MP3 players are a massive area of growth". No timetable has been announced for the device but ‘sooner rather than later’ was the official company line.
While it is surprising to see the Beeb divert so far away from its core business the motivations are understandable. The digital audio market is booming and – podcasts apart – radio content is being overwhelmed by pre-recorded music and audiobooks. Many non-Applian players do integrate an FM tuner but clearly Auntie recognises that it will take a higher quality of broadcast to tempt users away from their album collections.
Since it doesn’t own a manufacturing plant quite who the BBC will partner with for this project is a mystery but it dismissed rumours Apple was involved as ‘pure speculation’. Either way DAB would be a fantastic addition to any player but whether Auntie will beat other companies building it directly into their devices or whether the players themselves will have been largely integrated into mobile phones by the time their gadget appears remains to be seen…