Digital radio in the UK is facing a crisis, according to Ralph Bernard, outgoing chief executive of GCap Media. He has urged the Government to set an analogue switch over date so the industry can form a “business plan that makes sense”.
In an interview with Marketing Week, Bernard says that Digital One, the national commercial multiplex led by GCap, has “a lot of issues” and the arrival of second multiplex next year will “swamp” the market.
He says: “Digital One is a big challenge. BT has pulled out and [GCap-owned national brands] Core and Life are being removed and we are seeking replacements but there is not a great queue of people waiting to take over.”
He adds that GCap fought hard against the release of a second multiplex, which is being launched by a consortium led by Channel 4 next year, because “we said it [the market] couldn’t take it” and because the Government had originally said there would only be one multiplex.
Bernard predicts there would be an “upswing” of consumer interest in digital radio if an analogue switch off date was set. He also says the industry “needs the BBC’s help” with funding.
He adds that digital radio will not fail but will take “a much longer time” to develop without a date or funding.
Bernard announced his plans to step down from GCap last week. He will take over as chairman of Classic FM and Digital One but will also look for opportunities outside of the industry. He admits that he is “nervous” about the future and has become “a bit institutionalised” over his 25 years in the industry.