Minister confirms start of digital radio review

Margot James, MP, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has today confirmed Government’s support for the radio sector and announced that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will collaborate with radio broadcasters and the supply chain on a review and programme of work to ensure a healthy and vibrant digital future for UK radio.

Speaking at the Radio Academy Radio Festival, the radio industry’s highest-profile event which brings together broadcasters from across the BBC and commercial radio, the Minister reinforced the importance of digital radio and the progress made towards digital migration with over 52% of radio listening now being on a digital platform.

The Minister commented that the expansion of digital radio has been good for radio listeners with an ever-increasing number of exciting new digital stations offering an increasing range of music genres, sports and the spoken word.

Ms James said that the forthcoming review would take into account the growing importance of listening across all digital platforms to ensure that radio is well-placed to compete and thrive.

She confirmed that DCMS would be moving forward on a programme of work that will begin in a few weeks and conclude by the middle of next year

Margot James, MP, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries at the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“A consideration about the future of radio can no longer be seen as just a binary decision about a switch from an analogue to a digital broadcast platform.

A review must have a much broader focus to reflect the growing challenges arising from IP based audio content delivery and how this affects future decisions on radio distribution.

So I can confirm that we will begin a review of digital radio for broadcasters and other stakeholders to collectively develop a shared vision for a sustainable vibrant digital audio sector for the UK.”

The Minister emphasised the robust success of radio’s efforts to position itself for the digital age with the medium maintaining its ubiquitous position but highlighted that the radio industry has entered a new audio age with increasing listener interest in on demand content and a new set of global IP-based competitors.

In parallel the Minister hailed the importance of small-scale DAB in order to widen opportunities for small local commercial and community broadcasters and confirmed that the Order setting out the new licence structure would be laid in Parliament in June, subject to the Parliamentary timetable.

Ms James said that small-scale DAB could be a significant boost for local radio and would enable new and existing ultra-local commercial and community radio stations to have an affordable path to digital.

Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK, said:

“Along with radio broadcasters and the supply chain, we welcome the Minster’s decision to instigate a review of how we can work together to ensure that UK radio has a long term, healthy digital future. So much progress has been made in digital radio take-up, coverage and choice but there is still much to be done as UK radio faces a new set of global competitors across a range of digital devices and platforms. We look forward to collaborating to sustain radio’s digital migration and momentum.”

The Minister’s full speech is available on here