Commercial radio companies have accused the BBC of stalling in its commitment to digital radio.
Capital Radio, owner of local multiplexes in London, Birmingham and Manchester, claims the BBC is dragging its heels in reaching an agreement over the price it is prepared to pay for its guaranteed slots.
Capital Radio group managing director Sally Oldham says: “It isn’t clear how important digital radio is to the BBC. You have to query its commitment.”
Oldham says Capital’s local digital services will go on air this summer without the BBC if it does not commit soon.
Quentin Howard, chief executive of Digital One, the UK’s sole national digital multiplex – which is owned by GWR Group and NTL – is also calling on the BBC to increase its promotion of digital radio services on air. He believes the corporation should create new exclusive digital content to help push the price of digital radio sets down.
Howard thinks this will aid his talks with a manufacturer to produce Digital One digital radio sets which will sell for &£200, undercutting current prices by &£300.
But BBC head of digital radio Glyn Jones denies a lack of commitment. He says the BBC has a complex mix of digital services – TV, radio and online – to consider.
Jones says: “The BBC concentrates on delivering services to consumers. It is not putting all its eggs in one basket, but developing the strongest services to be well positioned on all the different platforms.”
He also claims that the outcome of the Davies report into BBC funding will influence the corporation’s various digital projects.
BBC Radio former head of strategy Simon Nelson has moved to head a new unit developing the corporation’s radio brands online. He is already working on the launch of BBC Black Music, a digital radio and Internet service.