The planned switchover from analogue to digital radio will not take place without support from the public, leading industry figures have said. And if growth in DAB radio listening continues at its current rate, a switchover won’t be able to happen until 2017 at the earliest.
The revelation came during a conference at which the BBC confirmed it would extend its DAB coverage to 97 per cent of the population, with full coverage for the entire motorway network and FM-matching coverage on the primary road network.
Tim Davie, Director of Audio and Music at the BBC, said, “We’ve now reached a tipping point where coverage is no longer going to be an issue. We can now begin to move to inevitability.”
But, when asked if that meant a switchover wasn’t yet inevitable, he said, “I think the direction is clear, but if we’re going to get public support for a switchover, more work needs to be done.”
The Government has set three targets that must be hit before a switchover can take place:
- Half of all radio listening must be on digital platforms
- National digital radio must match FM coverage, currently 98 per cent of the population
- Local digital radio must reach 90 per cent of the population
And while coverage won’t be an issue soon, the number of listeners tuning in via DAB is. For example, 20 per cent of all radio listening takes place in cars, but only two per cent of cars on the road have DAB radios.
And while the number of digital radio listeners is growing, it’s not growing fast enough according to Digital Radio UK, which represents the interests of the digital radio industry. And the UK is not on track for the planned 2015 switchover.
Ford Ennals, Chief Executive of Digital Radio UK, said, “If we carry on at the existing rate of growth it will be 2017.”
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