Media regulator Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, has warned against announcing a “meaningless” analogue radio switchoff date before the industry is ready for it.

With commercial radio uniting to call on the government to set a date for digital switchover, Richards counselled caution, saying any change had to be made in the best interest of the audience.

“You need to address the underlying economics first. I could give you a date now but it is meaningless without a credible plan to get there,” Richards told the Radio 3.0 conference in central London today.

“When people say we must have a date, it is another way of saying we need a credible plan that gives us a date. It is better to get that right and have a sense of determination and urgency to get that right rather than pluck a meaningless date out of the air,” he added.

“There is no point in doing something that the audience would regard as a disaster. It has to be seen as a good thing. That is the acid test.”

Richard said the commercial sector had to be able to make DAB radio pay before there could be serious talk of an analogue switchoff.