Backed by broadcasters, network providers and car manufacturers, the UK government is to increase efforts during 2014 to promote digital technology as the future for radio.
The initiative, which will include funding of £21 million and a possible second national commercial digital multiplex, was announced at the Go Digital Conference held just before Christmas at the Radio Theatre in BBC New Broadcasting House.
Hosted by Digital Radio UK, the organisation that will oversee any switchover from analogue transmission, the event was attended by industry representatives from Europe as well as the UK. In opening remarks Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and the creative industries, stated the government's commitment to a move away from analogue broadcasting by saying, "I absolutely believe the future of radio in this country is digital."
To boost the adoption of digital radio Vaizey announced a series of measures, including a £21 million programme by government, the BBC and the commercial radio sector to create local multiplexes to cover 90 percent of the UK population; a second national commercial multiplex licence to be offered during 2014; government backing for local stations to move to digital; and a Digital Tick mark on consumer equipment.
Vaizey also pointed to the shift towards digital on the international radio scene, with Norway and Denmark committed to switch over from analogue in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Also significant is the growth of DAB+, which is being used in both Germany and the Netherlands, among other countries.
On the consumer side the retail chain Halfords, which specialises in equipment for cars, has announced that its range of radios will be fully digital from 2015 onwards. Auto manufacturer Ford is also committing to making DAB standard in selected commercial vehicles and is working with Radioplayer to provide streamed radio services in cars as well as vans.
Commenting on the announcements, Patrick Hannon (pictured above), president of WorldDMB, said, "WorldDMB supports the many positive announcements made by the UK government, public and commercial broadcasters, and the UK automotive and digital radio manufacturing industries.
The UK has shown that it is clearly committed to a digital future for radio - with generous investment and support from UK government. I am delighted that the UK government and leading industry figures will continue to take a strong lead in the development of digital radio around the world."