Tuesday 30 March 2010

A welcome report on the digital radio switchover

With thanks to Adam Findlay of Wave 102 who sent me information about a new House of Lords report released yesterday, having had the opportunity today to read this, it is good that it emphasises the need for greater clarity in the digital radio upgrade plan, and it also highlights public confusion and industry uncertainty, with calls for every new radio to contain FM and digital (DAB and DAB+). (See http://tinyurl.com/digitalradiolatest).

It also says the government needs to put in place a radio scrappage scheme for old FM radio sets and a fund to help poorer people make the switch.

The report by the House of Lords Communications Committee has warned there could be a danger of a major public reaction when the radio switchover policy is implemented.

It says :

"If the UK is to go ahead with digital switchover, there needs to be the utmost clarity as to what will happen, in order that the consumer and the industry can proceed with confidence.

If current plans for 2015 go ahead, between 50 and 100 million analogue radios will become largely redundant and around 20 million car radios will need a converter. "The Government should work with car manufacturers to ensure that digital car radios are fitted with multi-standard chips as soon as possible and inform consumers of availability and benefits of digital radios containing the multi-standard chip."

The warnings of the House of Lords Communications Committee should be heeded. I have already raised concerns at the government’s handling of the future of radio, particularly that, when radio follows television in moving to digital-only transmission (DAB) by around 2015, many people may lose out in receiving radio reception and many local stations may not be available on digital.

Many local radio stations – for example Wave 102 in Dundee – are not available on Digital Audio Broadcasting. Also, reception of DAB is limited and many people simply cannot get consistent DAB reception.

I am unsurprised at the comments by this House of Lords Committee. It is beyond me that the Westminster Government is moving forward with proposals to switch off FM radio by around 2015 when over 100 local stations still do not have a clear digital migration path and are likely to be consigned to an uncertain future on the analogue spectrum once digital switchover has occurred.