The UK government has changed tack on the switchover to DAB digital radio, which the last administration had planned to happen by 2015. The new date will now depend on DAB's uptake.
In a speech released in advance of the forthcoming Intellect Digital Home Conference, Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey will stop short of even setting any date for the switchover to occur until DAB's market penetration passes the 50 percent mark.
That could be 2015 but given the technology's current lukewarm popularity with the public will more likely be later than that.
“We can’t impose this on an unwilling public, no matter how persuasive the business case,” Vaizey is reported to be going to say by way of introducing his Digital Radio Action Plan.
"The industry believes 2015 is an achievable target date and we will work to support that ambition. And when the weight of public opinion is behind it, with more than half of all radio listening digital, then we can take the decision on when the country will be ready for switchover," he will also say.
Sections of the commercial radio industry are keen on digital technology, which allows more stations to be packed into the same frequencies, while the BBC has pushed the technology hard as part of its public service broadcasting remit.
The radio industry, meanwhile, wants to sell more radios to replace the analogue sets still used by at least three quarters of the radio-listening public. The government's interest is simply to sell off valuable radio spectrum and encourage the private sector.
The problem is that the public remains to be convinced having had to struggle with expensive, bulky, power-consuming, unreliable DAB radios. In many instances, the claimed superior sound quality of DAB is compromised by constrained bit-rates and patchy coverage in rural areas.
Many new motor cars still do not come with DAB sets as standard, compounding the impression that sectors beyond the radio industry see the technology as not worth the expense.
"Listeners need to be persuaded that the content on offer is compelling, that the quality is high and that digital radios, at home or in the car, are affordable and have listening quality that is at least as good as FM,” Vaizey will say.
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