Government faces public backlash over digital switch plans, say peers

The Government needs to launch an “extensive” marketing campaign to publicise its plans to switch to digital radio by 2015 or face a public backlash, according to peers.

The Digital Economy Bill, currently passing through Parliament and likely to become law before the general election, sets a date of 2015 for the switchover from analogue to digital. Digital’s share of radio listening is currently about 20.9% but in order to meet the switchover date, about 50% of all radio listening must be via digital platforms by 2013.

However, a report by the Communications Committee of the House of Lords says that there is “public confusion and industry uncertainty” about the Government’s plans to switch to digital radio.

“We recommend an early and extensive information campaign to publicise the government’s digital radio policy, its rationale and its implications for listeners,” it says.

The report adds that between 50 and 100 million analogue radios could be redundant in five years time with the problem being made worse by consumers continuing to buy analogue radios and car manufacturers continuing to fit sets in new vehicles.

The committee recommends that a “sensible” scrappage scheme should be explored to deal with the potential problem.

It also calls for more help to be given to the elderly and poor to help them switch to digital.

Digital Radio UK, the company charged with overseeing the digital radio switchover, plans to launch a summer campaign that aims to drive digital radio take-up ahead of the planned 2015 switchover.

The radio industry has introduced several initiatives over the past year to prepare for the switchover. Digital Radio UK recently announced plans to boost London’s digital radio signal by installing new transmitters across the capital and last year, the BBC and commercial radio unveiled a standardised online radio player that can stream every licensed UK radio station, in a bid to bid to boost online listening.

Ford Ennals, Chief Executive, Digital Radio UK, says:  “The committee’s recommendations underline that public communication is essential learning from the success of the digital television switchover campaigns.”   

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