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British Minister: FM Will Continue for “Years to Come”

Vaizey meets with members of Parliament to address concerns about conditional 2015 transition to digital radio

Speaking with a group of 20 members of Parliament, British Culture Minister Ed Vaziey, whose remit includes broadcasting policy, stated that the analog FM radio would remain for “years to come.”

According to a report at UnLimited Media’s CMU, the meeting with parliamentarians was on behalf of several smaller U.K. radio groups. In the meeting, Vaziey noted that a 2015 switchover to digital radio would only happen if certain preconditions are met, including public uptake of DAB radio sets, half of all listening being via a digital platform, total coverage area and reach, and the availability of in-car DAB radios.

Vaziey also said that the FM network would remain in use after 2015, even if the preconditions would recommend a full digital swithover.

Although a 2015 shutoff of analog FM has been considered unlikely, even the possibility of a full switchover to digital radio has raised some concern among the public and some broadcasters, most notably the UKRD Group whose chief executive, William Rogers, called for the 2015 target to be scrapped.

According to the fourth-quarter 2010 listening results released by radio ratings company RAJAR in early February, one quarter of radio listening is via a digital platform, which includes via the Internet, a DTV platform or through DAB digital radio. Half of all radio listening must be via a digital platform by the end of 2013 for the government to actively push for a 2015 switchover.

RAJAR also found that one-third of the U.K. population, 18.5 million people aged 15+, claim to live in a household with a DAB receiver.

Also on the agenda for the meeting was the recent Ofcom decision to change radio license renewals from a 12-year term to a seven-year term. Vaziey said he would ask Ofcom to review that decision.