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High Fidelity

Wireless World, August, 1943.
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After the war I expect that listeners in the London area at any rate will get high-fidelity transmissions from the Alexandra Palace. When AP first started work as television headquarters the BBC was strongly urged to relay all the National programmes on the sound frequency. The demand came partly from radio amateurs, desirous of hearing broadcast music as it could and should be reproduced, and partly from non-technical folk, who had heard the lovely quality of the sound accompanying the vision programmes as reproduced by really good sets. Many in the latter class would probably have been willing to buy expensive television receivers for use mainly as sound reproducers if only the all-day high-fidelity transmissions could have been guaranteed. Unfortunately, they could not. The BBC was apparently willing enough to oblige, but a section of the radio industry feared that, if London listeners who possessed television receivers obtained full-time high- fidelity broadcasts, people in other parts of the country (and those who lived in or near London but hadn't televisors) might begin to make what they regarded as unreasonable demands about the quality of the reproduction of standard broadcast receivers. This seemed to me a most misguided standpoint, and I sincerely trust that we shall not find it after the war. Surely the logical outlook is this: high-fidelity broadcasts on the vision wavelengths will show those who can receive them what sound reproduction should be; their friends will hear their sets and will be encouraged to buy television receivers of their own; once the London area is bitten by the desire for high fidelity, the provinces will cry out for it and that will compel the authorities to extend the television service to other parts of the country; therefore, let all possible studio programmes be sent out on the television sound wavelength.

Costs of the Service

And there's more in it than just that. One reason why the public did not rush to buy television receivers was that they felt that they would not be getting their money's worth from programmes lasting but two or three hours a day. Educate them up to high fidelity, which probably would not need much doing (do you remember how they responded to the old 'bring out the bass' campaign?), promise them all-day high-fidelity programmes and they will soon realise that in the television receiver they are buying something for constant use. The old bogy about the cost of the television services will disappear, too. The BBC felt - and rightly - that they could not spend much on a service which benefited only a small proportion of listeners. And many listeners did not see why the cost of a service which could not be of any use to them should come out of the licence fees that they paid. Provide high-fidelity transmissions all over the country and there is every justification for spending on it all the money that is called for.

An Opportunity

By far the best thing would be to convert the present sound plant at the Alexandra Palace to frequency modulation and then to erect FM relays gradually all over the country. Even if vision could not be provided at all outside the London area, high-fidelity sound transmissions could be furnished pretty quickly in the more thickly populated parts of the country, spreading later to the rest of it. Post-war broadcast receivers would be of three kinds, to suit all pockets: (1) the low-priced set for AM long, medium and short waves; (2) the more expensive set, with a first-rate audio-frequency side, designed for AM long, medium and short-wave transmissions and for FM on its ultra-short range; (3) the combined sound and vision receiver. Manufacturers need not be afraid of a bold policy. So few sets have been sold during the war that there will be an immediate market for millions when it is over and there will be plenty of money in the hands of the people to pay for them.

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