UK: Lord Stephen Carter (pictured) has issued an interim version of the highly anticipated 'Digital Britain' report, writes David Davies. The preliminary edition collated by communications, technology and broadcasting minister Lord Carter commits the government to 22 specific proposals encompassing the entire spectrum of new media services. The full, finalised version is due for publication in June.
Public service broadcasting, mobile wireless services, 'next generation networks', digital TV and digital radio are among the many major topics addressed in 'Digital Britain', which runs to 86 pages in its preliminary version.
In summary, the government will support digital radio by: committing to making digital radio a primary distribution network; creating a digital radio migration plan; working with industry to make digital radio more attractive to consumers; helping the BBC ensure its digital radio coverage replicates its FM footprint; and calculating the costs of digital migration.
The government adds that it will involve "all the parties" to devise a detailed plan, with a view to satisfying the migration criteria - specifically, that migration will take effect when half of all radio listening is digital - by 2015.
The response to 'Digital Britain' from UK opposition parties has, however, been less than ecstatic. Liberal Democrat shadow culture, media and sport secretary Don Foster was particularly vocal. "The Government made a lot of the right noises today while failing to take any tough decisions," he said. "Instead of a serious strategy we've been offered another round of reviews, strategy groups and consultations." Foster went on to describe the report as a "damp squib".
The government will be cheered, though, by some positive noises from UK digital radio manufacturers and industry groups, many of whom welcomed the report's adoption of proposals included in a recent document issued by the Digital Radio Working Group (DWRG).
Colin Crawford, director of marketing at Hertfordshire-based DAB digital radio manufacturer PURE, commented: "The government's endorsement of the DRWG report is great news for UK radio listeners and British industry, which leads the way in this field. PURE, as one of the key innovators in the DAB industry, is looking forward to fulfilling the increased demand that this endorsement is bound to generate."
"We are delighted with the recommendations contained in the interim 'Digital Britain' report, which couldn't be more timely as market penetration of DAB radio continues to rise," said Anthony Sethill, chief executive of digital multimedia solution provider Frontier Silicon.
"The 'Digital Britain' report rightly recognises that 'DAB has become the platform of choice for digital radio listening'," said Tony Moretta, chief executive of the Digital Radio Development Bureau. "According to the latest RAJAR figures, DAB delivers almost six times the number of listening hours of internet radio. There is much to be done to meet the criteria for migration, and we will be working with our partners - broadcasters and manufacturers - to achieve the goals set out in this report as quickly as possible."