“Lifeline for FM radio as digital switchover is delayed to 2017”
is the headline that greeted MailOnline visitors on 30th November. The article bemoaned the low take-up rate of digital radio and the difficulties surrounding convincing the consumers of the benefit of the new platform. This has been compounded by tensions between the BBC and Commercial Radio over who will pay for the rollout of DAB and the digital transmitter network. Now we hear that some commercial stations are threatening to either not run the official Digital Radio UK ad on the lead in to Christmas or run their own anti-DAB campaign
, the latter seen by some to be especially damaging to the radio industry
It’s all a bit messy really and jars somewhat with the reasonably positive outlook presented at this year’s Radio Festival. In Salford Quays we heard that the industry still faces a number of challenges regarding the digital switchover targeted for 2015, but that progress is being made. For example, car and mobile phone manufacturers are already putting DAB in as standard on certain models. DAB transmitter coverage is at 93% of the UK and the £100m transmitter build out is well under way. However, a major issue for broadcasters, particularly local radio, is the not inconsiderable additional cost of funding dual (analogue and digital) transmission. Which brings us back again to the sensitive issue of money.
Trend analysis of RAJAR data shows that the percentage of adults owning DAB radios often records a step-change uplift in Q1 each year, following what is known as the ‘Christmas effect’. Whether these gifts were received with smiles and gratitude or a thinly concealed look of disdain remains unrecorded in the research. That said, the trend appears to have slowed down in 2010 with a much less marked post-Christmas uplift.
Work conducted by Ipsos MediaCT earlier this year and published in our January 2010 MediaCT bite-sized thoughtpiece
suggested that the switchover may be another ten years away rather than five. Digital radio’s share of listening currently stands at 24.8%, half way to the 50% required for the switchover.
So, all eyes will be looking ahead to the Q1 2011 RAJAR results for digital listening levels and who got DAB radios for Christmas (or maybe people will get Kindles and iPads instead). It will be the biggest indicator yet on how well the marketing push has worked and whether we are looking at 2015, 2017 or perhaps a 2020 vision for digital radio.