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BBC radio boss says UK not ready for digital switchover

By | Published on Tuesday 20 March 2018

Digital Radio

The BBC reckons that the Great British Public still dig a bit of frequency modulation and are simply not ready for a forced switchover to new fangled digital audio. Then again, the Great British Public voted for Brexit, so what do they know? And given that at least some voters voted for Brexit because of an air of nostalgia for those olden day, maybe everyone should be forced back to the medium wave where only amplitude is modulated.

By which, I mean, BBC radio chief Bobby Shennan has been discussing whether it’s yet time for the long talked about digital switchover in British radio. That would mean stations being removed from the AM and FM dials so that everyone would need a DAB device (or a telly or internet connected gizmo) to tune into to the country’s radio networks.

A forced shift to digital radio has been on the agenda ever since analogue TV broadcasts started to end in the UK back in 2008. But plans to turn off FM in the UK have been hindered somewhat by the relatively slow uptake of DAB by consumers, and a radio industry that can never quite decide whether DAB is super duper or a bit of a damp squib.

Digital switchover for UK radio is now a talking point yet again. Partly because Norway led the way by instigating such a switchover last year. And partly because one of the UK government’s requirements for switchover – uptake of digital radio by 50% of the population – is now pretty much met.

Speaking at the Radiodays Europe conference in Vienna, Shennan said the time was still not right for a digital switchover in the UK. According to the BBC, he said: “We need to do more in the UK before we consider a switchover”. Arguing that any switchover should be “genuinely led by the audience”, he went on: “We are fully committed to digital and we believe we should review the landscape again in a few years’ time”.

He added: “Great progress has been made but switchover now would be premature. For now we believe audiences are best served by a mixed economy. Radio is better served by a mixed economy”.

That sounds a bit like exiting the EU but staying in the single market to me. Boris Johnson would not approve.



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