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Restart Radio: World Radio Day and electronics in the wake of Brexit

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On International World Radio Day, Ugo is joined by Restart volunteer Ben Skidmore to discuss the future of FM radio, and the future of electronics manufacturing more broadly in a post-Brexit world.

The landscape of electronics design and manufacture is always changing, but today we discuss several developments and shifts that are particularly significant.

Firstly, our friends at iFixit published a teardown of an Apple ‘Homepod’, the latest (and most expensive) in a wave of ‘smart speakers’ now flooding the market (for more on this, our Voice Controlled Assistants episode link is below). iFixit’s team concluded that the Homepod quite possibly takes the prize for the least repairable device that Apple has ever made, giving it a repairability rating of 1/10. Is the fact that it is highly durable enough to offset this shortcoming? And how might we see the trade-off between durability and repairability being navigated by manufacturers in the future?

Next, we confront some of the unspoken concerns surrounding current Brexit negotiations, particularly with regards to ecodesign. The European Commission Ecodesign Directive spells out a move towards products that are designed to last longer. But if the UK is left to design its own regulations, the risk is that we will not manage to keep up. We discuss a potential future in which the UK becomes a ‘dumping ground’ for lower quality products that are not acceptable in the EU. Luckily, there is hope to be found in the progress being made by single states to protect consumer rights and promote repair, such as the Swedish legislation that gives tax breaks for repair.

Finally, on World Radio Day, we celebrate our love of radio and the station that makes our show possible: Resonance FM (support their fundraiser here). FM radio seems to be one of the most resilient of broadcast media, but as the number of people switching to DAB (digital radio) grows, the possibility of a digital switchover becomes more imminent. There are undoubtedly some benefits to DAB radio, even though we’ve often found them harder to repair. And we should always remember to ask who, and what, is being left behind in case a technology is rendered obsolete.


[Feature Image “Yet another CXA1191 FM radio receiver” by Flickr user Dilshan Jayakody is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

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