Press release

More listeners to get digital radio choice

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey announces new digital radio investment.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Digital radio will cover more homes and provide listeners with greater choice thanks to new investment, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey announced today.

Mr Vaizey outlined a package of measures that will provide more people with access to digital radio and told today’s Go Digital Conference that while great progress had been made in rolling-out digital radio, we needed to continue improving the service before a decision can be taken to switchover.

The Government has been clear that a decision on digital radio switchover can only be made when various benchmarks are met, including when listening via digital is at 50 per cent. It is currently 35.6 per cent.

Mr Vaizey said:

I absolutely believe that the future of radio in this country is digital. We cannot go backwards.

The radio listener will get a much better service, and better functionality. There will be far more choice, with many more stations.

The UK is at the forefront of developments in digital radio, and we have a huge opportunity not just with the UK market but also throughout Europe.

This package of measures is intended to cement this and herald in a digital age, as and when the consumer is ready.

Ed Vaizey today revealed the package of measures includes:

  • Up to £21m of new investment from the BBC, Government and commercial radio to build out digital radio coverage, so more homes can receive it;

  • Government funding for Ofcom to develop ways for smaller radio stations to go digital;

  • Ofcom will next year advertise the licence to build and run a second national DAB multiplex to allow new national commercial stations to launch;

  • A new partnership being formed between Digital Radio UK and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency as well as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to provide people with information on upgrading their car radio to digital;

  • Ofcom will review music format rules next year to see if these can be relaxed to give industry greater freedom to adapt to changing consumer tastes and to ensure competition. Government and Ofcom will also look more closely at other regulations around radio to ensure they are fit for a digital age;

  • Digital Radio UK will speak to industry about taking forward the Digital Certification Mark scheme to signpost consumers to digital radios that meet a minimum specification – giving them greater assurance on the product they are buying;

  • DRUK will also speak to industry about extending this scheme to in car digital radio installers– so motorists upgrading their car radio to digital will know the person responsible for installing it knows what they’re doing.

Mr Vaizey said that more and more people were choosing to listen digitally with 35.6 per cent of radio listening via digital compared with 21.1 per cent in 2009.

He added:

I have always said that the radio listener will lead the transition to digital.

We set ourselves a series of benchmarks. Listening should be at 50%. Coverage needs to be built out with firm plans in place to match FM coverage for all stations moving from analogue.

We are not there yet. So now is not the time to switchover.

Notes to Editors

  1. Ed Vaizey’s speech is available here.

  2. Industry statements

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, said:

“ We welcome the Minister’s confirmation of a digital future for radio in the UK and today’s announcements about Government investment in DAB coverage and the ability to launch new national stations on DAB, which benefit listeners and enable the switchover criteria to be met. We will continue to plan for a radio switchover and the achievement of the criteria, and look forward to the future confirmation of a switchover date which will give industry the certainty it needs. We also welcome Government’s announcement of the digital radio ‘tick’ mark, which means that consumers can make informed purchase decisions.”

Helen Boaden, BBC Director of Radio, said:

” We welcome today’s announcement of the expansion of DAB coverage for BBC local stations over the next few years. By the end of 2015 our national network will also benefit from the addition of 162 new transmitters.”

Ashley Tabor, Founder & Executive President of Global, said:

” This is the biggest boost to local DAB coverage in many years, and a great result for listeners all over the country. We are delighted that local DAB coverage will finally match FM coverage for local commercial radio stations. We want all our local stations, that are part of the Capital and Heart networks, to enjoy good coverage on DAB, and this will soon be a reality as a result of this agreement. The real winner here is the listener.”

Paul Keenan, CEO of Bauer Media, said:

“ Today’s announcement from the Minister is a positive step forward for our industry. This announcement and the support promised by the Government is vital to all those who work in the radio sector. The continued growth of DAB means listeners will benefit from an increased choice of stations, a better radio listening experience and a certainty that they can tune in 24/7 to the best radio content on offer worldwide.”

Steve Holebrook, Managing Director of Terrestrial Broadcast, Arqiva, said:

“ Arqiva is committed to radio’s digital future. Over the last 18 months we have built seven new local muxes giving 6 million listeners access to local DAB services. We have also launched national DAB in Northern Ireland for the very first time. Over the next two years we will be expanding the BBC’s national services to cover 97% of the population, adding 2.5 million new DAB listeners, as well as supporting the newly announced local coverage expansion.”

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Published 16 December 2013