digital-alThe digital radio switchover may not reach completion until 2020, despite strong sales of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) sets, Digital Radio UK’s Ford Ennals has said.
During December, around half a million DAB sets were snapped up by consumers, bringing the total number to 10.5 million in the UK.
However, Ennals, who is leading the body responsible for preparing the UK for the radio switchover, claimed that the transition to digital could be “six to ten years away” from completion.
Currently heading through parliament, the government’s digital economy bill has set the target date of 2015 for the switchover to begin, but that would only come into force should digital account for 50% of radio listening by 2013.

It presently stands at just 21.1%. “The earliest possible date that there might be switchover would be six years from here, six to ten years away, I believe,” Ennals told The Guardian.
“We want to be responsible and transparent with consumers.”
Ennals said that expansion of the DAB platform, which currently lags behind the more dominant FM analogue network, is “absolutely fundamental” to further growth of digital radio.
While giving evidence last week to the House of Lords communications committee on the future of radio services, Ennals pointed to Ofcom research as indicating that there are 100m sets in the UK, but only half are being used.
Ennals expressed his hope that “low cost converters” could be produced to enable the transition of existing analogue sets to digital. He further backed a proposal for launching an integrated programming guide for digital sets to make it easier to access both FM and digital stations.
However, Digital Radio Working Group chairman Barry Cox told the committee the “likelihood was that many of those analogue sets will have to be disposed of” following the switchover.
Cox, who has been investigating the future of digital radio for the government, claimed that the BBC is willing to spend the licence fee surplus from the digital switchover help scheme on expanding the national DAB footprint.

“From my private conversations with BBC people – for what they are worth – they incline towards using some of the money for extending their national DAB radio coverage,” he informed the Lords committee.
“It is digital money and it is a slightly easier thing to say let us complete the digital radio structure than give it to broadband or local news on ITV or whatever.”

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By Expat