Digital Radio – latest

At the end of January, I raised concerns about the future of local radio in the digital age. I wrote to Broadcasting Minister Sion Simon MP on the matter.

I have now received the following response :

“Dear Councillor Macpherson,


Thank you for your email of 31 January to Sion Simon expressing the concerns of your constituents about the proposed switchover to DAB radio. I have been asked to reply.

The Digital Britain White Paper sets out the Government’s vision for a radio industry in a digital world and the mechanisms needed to deliver it. Evidence suggests that the digitisation of radio has already begun. Around 20% of all radio listening is currently via a digital platform and this is expected to exceed 50% within the next five years. Therefore, we believe the decision for Government is not whether digital radio will replace analogue, but how to ensure that any transition to digital is delivered in a coordinated way which best reflects the needs and expectations of listeners.

 

With this in mind the Digital Britain White Paper set out our intention to deliver a Digital Radio Upgrade programme by the end of 2015, when we would expect all services carried on the national and local DAB multiplexes to cease broadcasting on analogue. The Digital Radio Upgrade will be implemented on a single date, which will be announced at least two years in advance. I can assure you that the Digital Radio Upgrade should provide consumers with a greater choice of stations and functionality than they currently receive via FM.

Coverage of digital radio broadcasting in the UK continues to grow, already reaching about 90% of the UK population. However, the Digital Radio Upgrade programme will require new investment in building out and improving DAB coverage and reception. We will be working with the BBC and commercial operators to ensure coverage of DAB is comparable to FM by the end of 2014.

We have held two radio summits with local radio stations to understand the issues facing local stations, both now and after the proposed digital radio switchover. In these meetings we have been clear that the Digital Economy Bill is not intended to create a two-tier radio industry, with those on FM suffering. Such an outcome is not in the interests of listeners or the sector. We are committed to continuing this dialogue with local radio stations as the planning for digital radio switchover continues.

Further to this, the Government is working with manufacturers to establish a unified station list, similar to an electronic programme guide (EPG) for radio, which will allow listeners to access stations via the station name irrespective of the platform on which the service is carried. Listeners will therefore be able to move seamlessly between bands selecting stations simply by name, which is not currently the case when listening to FM and AM stations on an analogue radio receiver.

 

The radio industry is facing a market of rising costs and falling revenues which threatens the health of the whole sector. We believe that the Digital Radio Upgrade is critical to the future sustainability of the radio industry because it will provide an opportunity to re-structure the industry so it can operate more effectively. The Digital Radio Upgrade will establish, for the first time, three distinct tiers of radio in the UK, which will provide distinct markets in which radio stations can operate, compete and we believe flourish. The local commercial and community radio services which will populate FM will have a distinct role in providing very local material and reflecting the communities they cover. Due to the very local nature of their content, these services will benefit from less competition for local advertising funding.

Taken together these commitments will ensure that all stations can continue to operate fairly and prosper within their individual markets.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Edwards
Media Desk Officer
Department for Culture, Media and Sport”