Industry welcomes Government confirmation of digital future and investment in local DAB coverage
At the Go Digital Conference held today at the iconic BBC Radio Theatre, Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, confirmed Government's vision of a digital future for radio and said he wanted to continue to improve the service, and reach coverage and listening criteria before a radio switchover.
Digital Radio UK and the BBC, Global Radio, Bauer Media and Arqiva welcomed the confirmation of Government and broadcaster investment in new local DAB transmitters, bringing local stations to local commercial FM coverage, which was heralded as good news for listeners and car drivers. They also welcomed the announcement of a second national commercial multiplex in 2014 which will allow for new national stations on DAB. These major initiatives will help towards meeting the switchover coverage and listening criteria, and so support the preparations for a future radio switchover.
Minister Ed Vaizey confirmed that we are not ready for a radio switchover and that consumer listening and DAB coverage criteria would need to be met in order for switchover dates to be set. He said that funding was in place for Ofcom to develop a route to digital for small local stations. The Minister stated at the conference that the DVLA was preparing to include information about digital radio in all vehicle tax reminders.
Digital Radio UK, together with radio and vehicle manufacturers, also welcomed the announcement of a new digital 'tick' mark for radios and installers which would be licenced for approved radio sets which meet minimum criteria (including DAB and FM) as set out in the Government-industry Digital Radio Action Plan, and for registered installers who successfully pass a training programme.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, 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. This package of measures is intended to cement this and herald in a digital age, as and when the consumer is ready."
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."