DAB Radio: why you should switch

16 Dec, 2013 5:12pm Nathan Velayudhan

The digital switchover is on the horizon. We round-up the Government's plans

Initiations for the digital switchover have already begun, as Government Minister, Ed Vaizey, has announced.

At the Go Digital Conference, Ed Vaizey - Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries - was joined by vehicle manufacturers and digital radio makers alike as he announced plans for the digital switchover. We've rounded up all the key points, to help you decide whether you should make the switch.

Ed Vaizey marked his intentions from the start: "“I absolutely believe that the future of radio in this country is digital. We cannot go backwards."

The Government has outlined its intention to see radio broadcasting switch from analogue to digital audio broadcasting (DAB). It's received backing from all areas of the industry,  with the CEO of Halfords declaring: "Halfords is committed to a digital future." Halfords has announced that by 2015 its radio offerings will be 100 per cent digital.

Ed Vaizey has announced a string of initiatives that he says will help the spread of digital radio. An all-new digital "tick" mark is to be used on approved digital radio sets, while the DVLA is set to include information about digital radio in vehicle tax reminders.

Further to this, there will be up to £21m of new investment, which comes from the BBC, the Government and commercial radio. This will be used to build digital radio coverage, so more homes can receive it.

Meanwhile, Ofcom will next year advertise the licence to build and run a second national DAB multiplex - this will allow new national commercial stations to launch.

Initially, the Government had set a target date of 2015, by which, it had hoped to complete the digital switchover. However, Vaizey has not yet announced an official date. Meanwhile, the commercial radio trade body, the Radio Centre, has been pushing for a digital switchover date of 2018 - but there are even questions as to whether this is an achievable date or not.

As things stand, 40 per cent of new cars come with digital radio fitted as standard - it is recognised that the availability of digital radio in cars will be pivotal in terms of the digital switchover.

However, the government has announced the switchover will only commence when 50 per cent of all listening is to digital (currently it is at 35.6 per cent). In other words, the Government is hoping to grow DAB coverage so that it is comparable to FM. Currently, FM has reached the limit of its capabilities and like other media, radio needs to move towards a digital future to meet listeners' expectations.

Advantages of digital radio (DAB) include ease-of-use (easily find stations), more content and better quality of sound. The Government is hoping to extend local DAB reach to 90 per cent of the population and all major roads before the switchover takes place. 

However, there's still a substantial amount of work to do, as Ed Vaizey highlights: "We are not there yet. So now is not the time to switchover.”

Do check back here as we will be updating this page regularly with all the latest DAB news.