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U.K. Minister: ‘The Only Future I Envisage for Radio Is Digital’

Vaizey defends government’s approach and DAB’s growth

The minister for culture, communications and creative industries in the United Kingdom talked recently about the country’s transition to digital radio in a speech at the BBC.

Digital radio chip maker Frontier Silicon pointed journalists today to the text of the remarks, to highlight what the government official said at the October conference.

Ed Vaizey said the U.K. “leads the world in the take-up and consumption of digital radio, we have exciting digital-only content and the leading manufacturers are U.K. companies.” He said some 14 million DAB sets have been sold.

“Radio’s strengths are its flexibility, its ability to integrate with other platforms and devices,” Vaizey said. “Radio will be a multi-platform medium in the future. But radio does need its own digital platform, one which provides certainty and is free at the point of access. That is why DAB is important.”

He talked about the “switchover” plan that has generated much debate in the U.K. He reminded the audience that though a 2015 target date has been set out, no actual date for switchover will be finalized until half of all U.K. radio listening is to digital. “We have also said that DAB coverage at national and local level will need to be comparable to FM.”

“It would be wrong for all of us to try and force a switchover on listeners until they were ready, hence the switchover criteria,” he continued.

But, he said, digital listening is growing. He said the percentage of digital radios in U.K. cars and commercial vehicles “as standard” has risen from 5.3% in September 2010 to almost 18% a year later. “This means that over a quarter of a million vehicles have been sold with digital radio in the past year.” He said Ford has announced that all its vehicles sold in the country will include digital radio as standard by the end of 2012. Further, the U.K. is on target to have the majority of all new vehicles sold with standard digital radio by the end of 2013.

He also described the development of integrated adapters that allow digital radio to be used with existing audio systems, and said the government hopes to launch a digital radio certification mark in 2012 to help things along.

“There is undoubtedly a huge amount of work to done between now and mid-2013, with even more to follow if the switchover is to become a reality,” Vaizey concluded, “but right now the only future I envisage for radio, is digital.”

Read Vaizey’s remarks.