UK radio to go completely digital by 2020

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UK radio services should be migrated on to digital audio broadcasting (DAB) by 2020, according to the Digital Radio Working Group’s (DRWG) interim report.

The government-backed industry panel recommended the establishment of a timetable for the migration of all UK radio from analogue to digital and said that this should be completed between 2015 and 2020.

However, in the medium term, the group recommends migrating all national, regional and large local stations to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), with FM continuing to be used by small local and community radio stations.

The DRWG does not recommend setting a date for the switchover to digital radio now. Instead, it recommends a timetable for migration is set out, which is dependent on progress against the agreed criteria. The group’s initial assessment is that migration could be completed by 2020.

Chairman of the DRWG Barry Cox said: “At the end of May this year, sales of DAB sets exceeded seven million. We believe radio must have a digital future and that this will benefit both listeners and industry. Audiences will be able to enjoy increased functionality and more choice of channels, while the industry will no longer have to sustain the increased transmission costs of broadcasting on multiple platforms.

“If these benefits are to be achieved, then action must be taken to address the significant challenges which threaten the future growth of the market. There is a great deal to be done to address these issues, and I hope that this interim report will stimulate debate on how to achieve a digital future.”

The group, set up in November 2007, has been looking at the barriers to the growth of digital radio and the conditions needed to allow digital platforms to become the main means of delivering radio. As part of its work, four sub-groups were set up to consider issues such as the mechanisms for growth, technology, coverage and European harmonisation.

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