Macworld Daily News
Friday - May 19, 2006
Ofcom closer to iPod FM radio rule switch
By Macworld staff
Ofcom has confirmed it is working with other European regulators to establish EU-wide rules that would permit use of FM transmitters, such as the iTrip.
A BBC report explains that these are banned in the UK because they can (in theory) interfere with"legal stations".
In face of pressure from the Liberal Democrats, Ofcom has begun to explore how to change the law on this, which dates back to 1949.
They realise that such devices are widely-used in the UK, and that no damage is done to radio reception.
The Liberals questioned the status quo in the Houses of Parliament, asking that action be taken to remedy the law, or that Ofcom justify its continuation.
In face of this, Ofcom admitted it is "working with other European administrations to develop a common set of standards to allow some low-power devices to be sold and used in the UK," the report states.
While the report promises action may take place before the end of the year, it warns that these FM transmitter products would have to be tested for adherence to technical standards review to ensure they didn't pose an interference to other people's radio reception.
Ofcom rethinks ban on iPod gadget
An Apple iPod connected to a radio transmitting device
Devices can transmit an iPod's music over FM radios
Ofcom has said it is working with other regulators to draft an EU-wide standard on the use of a gadget which plays the output of Apple's iPods on FM radios.
Using an iTrip is banned in Britain as its low-power transmissions can, in theory, interfere with legal stations.
However, the device and other similar accessories for MP3 players are widely available to purchase online.
The Liberal Democrats have said Ofcom "must provide compelling evidence" to explain why they remain outlawed.
The Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 forbids the use of radio equipment without a licence or an exemption.
However, the party's shadow culture secretary Don Foster said it was "ridiculous that 1940s legislation is preventing the iPod generation from enjoying their music using the latest gadgets".
He added: "iTrips can be used in the US without disturbing the airwaves, so [Ofcom] must provide compelling evidence why they can't be used here."
Discussed in parliament
The matter has been raised at a Commons standing committee by the Liberal Democrats' small business spokesperson, Lorely Burt.
She said there was a "booming black market" in the accessories, and "a workable solution" was required instead of threats of hefty fines or jail sentences for those using them.
Clayton Hirst, the head of corporate relations at Ofcom, said his organisation was "working with other European administrations to develop a common set of standards to allow some low-power devices to be sold and used in the UK".
A full public consultation would precede any change to regulations, he said.
However, he warned that some devices currently on sale "may not meet these technical standards, designed to minimise interference to other radio users".
"As a result, they are unlikely to be authorised for use in the UK in the future," he added.
It is believed that Ofcom could announce progress on the issue before the end of this year.