Monday, 18 November 2013

The future of local radio on FM and the threat of DAB

I have just received this email from Digital UK regarding DAB and the fact that local radio stations are being squeezed off DAB as it does not have a capacity that DAB+ (or FM) has. The government have ruled out DAB+ and the roadmap was for a digital switchover like the one for TV in which analogue (FM/ Medium wave) was turned off.

The reality is there is simply not enough space on DAB and I have expressed my concern to government over this issue and unless significant changes too radios that are for sale are made, local stations such as 2BR and 107 The Bee as well as Rossendale Radio or any other will be forced to remain on FM whilst a radio listening public only have incompatible DAB radios.

The governments decision to keep FM switched on is simply a cop out. Whilst high street stores are now selling radios equipped to receive FM and digital many sold so far are DAB only. There is a real danger that unless FM is integrated in to all radios sold as an easy to access frequency as DAB, particularly in car radio receivers, then local radio will have a more difficult future

From: Ford Ennals []
Sent: 13 November 2013 14:24
Subject: Radio's digital future

Dear Sir/Madam, I wanted to write and update you on progress ahead of an in-principle decision and announcement in December on the future of UK radio. Digital Radio UK represents the BBC and commercial radio groups,who operate hundreds of national and local commercial stations, and account for 95% of radio listening in the UK.

We believe digital is the future for radio, and would welcome an in-principle decision this year that gives the industry and listeners certainty for the future. The DCMS digital strategy paper: Connectivity, Content and Consumers (CCC), issued in July, said about radio: “Digital offers significant scope for growth in the radio industry because of its capacity for many more radio stations and the increased opportunities to develop new revenue streams, and crucially provide ever greater choice of content that people want to access.”

Moving to a predominantly digital broadcast infrastructure is an important part of the UK’s digital strategy. The certainty provided by a positive switchover decision will allow broadcasters to invest further in digital platforms, stimulate further growth in the radio sector, and drive innovation in improving the radio experience and choice of local and national stations for listeners.

I also wanted to reassure you about the future for local radio. We are absolutely committed to sustaining our local radio stations, which are valuable sources of local information and interest to your constituents. We believe that the movement of national and the larger radio stations onto DAB and online will allow a significant expansion of local and community stations on FM, which is good for listeners and good for local radio.

FM will not be switched off, but will become the home of smaller local and community radio stations, which will secure their future. We are confident that listeners will continue to listen to their favourite local stations on FM after a future radio switchover.

Government has specified that FM, as well as DAB, should be a standard part of new radios so listeners will be able to continue to receive all their local stations whether they are on FM or DAB, in addition to online via computers and smart phones. Ofcom have identified those local stations, based on size of the area served, that will initially stay on FM after the switchover. Ofcom is also developing a low-cost route for small local stations to move to DAB, for those that choose to do so.

In short, you can be assured that the future of local radio stations in your constituency is bright.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet and to discuss further.

Ford Ennals
Chief Executive Officer
Digital Radio UK
a: 6th floor, 55 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1BS
t: 020 7010 0720 m: 07854992902

Digital Radio UK Ltd
Registered Office: 55 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1BS, United Kingdom
Registered in England & Wales No 4104532