Government delays analogue radio switch-off

The government has today (Janauary 29) avoided confirming an analogue radio switch-off in its Digital Britain report. Communications minister, Lord Carter, says there is no reason why analogue and digital radio cannot not exist together.

The report says the government is committed to making DAB a “primary distribution network” for radio. It says DAB has become “the medium of consumer choice” in the UK and the “platform of choice for digital radio listening”.

Carter pledges the government will now work with the BBC to see how it can improve its DAB coverage to at least match FM, and has called on the radio industry to improve the quality and range of its current DAB services.

The report rejects proposals for an extension of commercial radio’s existing analogue and digital radio licences, but instead says an independent review of the future provision and regulation of local commercial radio will take place.

It says: “The government and Ofcom will have key roles to play in providing for a digital future for radio, but this in itself will not be enough. We will expect the radio industry to strengthen its consumer proposition in terms of new and innovative content and to take advantage of the technological developments that DAB can offer.”

It stresses there is no need to address the issue of a switch-off of the analogue radio signal, in the same way as television.

A digital migration plan in radio will not begin until digital radio accounts for more than 50% of all radio listening and national DAB coverage met current FM levels it adds – digital radio currently accounts for 18.3% of all radio listening.

It also says local DAB must reach 90% of the population and all major roads before migration could begin – a target it says is unlikely to be met before 2015.

In order to speed this up, the government will create a “digital radio delivery group”, including manufacturers, consumer representatives, commercial radio groups and the BBC, with a role to “increase the attractiveness, availability and affordability of DAB and to advise on the digital migration plan”.

It will also conduct a cost-benefit analysis of digital migration and will grant a one-off, five-year extension of existing community radio licence, and re-examine the rules on the funding of community radio.

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