All national radio stations will be upgraded to digital by 2015. The announcement was made by the government today in the much talked about Digital Britain report.
As part of the move, DAB digital radio will also be upgraded so that it stands on par with current FM coverage.
The Digital Radio Upgrade will be implemented on a single date, which will be announced at least two years in advance. On the determined date all services carried on the national and local DAB multiplexes will cease broadcasting on analogue. At the same time, a new tier of ultra-local radio, consisting of small local commercial stations and community stations, will occupy the vacated FM spectrum.
Radio services on MW will either upgrade to DAB or, if they are within the ultra-local tier, to FM. This will deliver an upgrade from FM to DAB and from MW to FM.
Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of commercial radio trade body, the RadioCentre said, “For radio to flourish in the digital age we require a digital strategy and, on first inspection, we are encouraged that Digital Britain sets out a clear roadmap for our industry’s future. Clearly, implementation of that roadmap is now a priority for RadioCentre alongside all the industry stakeholders.
“We think that Digital Britain is right to identify a target date of 2015 to upgrade our sector to digital radio while also recognising the importance of meeting key criteria to trigger switchover and the need for intervention to drive the behaviour of manufacturers, the motor industry and other stakeholders. This will enable our members to plan and invest for their future; we now have a firm consensus that digital is the route forward for radio’s future.
“We agree that the BBC is a major stakeholder in achieving greater coverage for DAB and are delighted that the report identifies the digital switchover surplus as a further route to securing funding for this in addition to transmission cost savings from the Arqiva/NGW merger and the end of dual transmission.”
Digital Britain also said broadcasters should be prepared to experiment with more advanced compression technologies and manufacturers must ensure DAB sets are futureproofed and able to receive DAB+ and DMB-A.
The government called on radio operators to deliver new niche services on DAB, “such as a dedicated jazz station and gain better value from existing content, such as live coverage of Premiership football or uninterrupted coverage from music festivals”.