Digital Radio UK hits back at critics

What is the future of local radio in the UK? Debates rage over the government's plans to take the industry into a digital future...
What is the future of local radio in the UK? Debates rage over the government's plans to take the industry into a digital future...

The government's plans for developing the UK's radio industry have come under fire recently, with newly-formed lobby group Digital Radio UK taking much of the flak.

The organisation has hit back at recent criticisms that its digital plans threaten to close down numerous local radio stations in the UK, with the likes of William Rogers – Chief Executive of UKRD and The Local Radio Company – recently claiming:

"What kind of industry is it that happily supports a strategic and structural change which only applies to about two thirds of its operations?"

Digital planning criticised

In response, a Digital Radio UK spokesperson told TechRadar this week: "UKRD's position is ironic. On the one hand, it is complaining that, historically, the radio industry has been the victim of poor digital planning; yet on the other hand is objecting to the Digital Britain proposals for the future which, for the first time, set out a proposed plan on how an upgrade to digital might work, and what a plan for those with an analogue future might look like.

"What's more, it's a plan that has involved all stakeholders – including commercial radio, BBC and Arqiva, as well as Ofcom and DCMS in its development."

In addition the Digital Radio UK spokesperson stressed that the government's newly announced Digital Economy Bill shows that it "is committed to achieving a future for radio which secures a thriving commercial radio sector for all operators, national and local, analogue and digital alike, alongside a universally-available digital BBC."

The example of the work of commercial radio organisations such as RadioCentre is profferred as proof that there is "a great deal of work being done to secure precisely the certainty which UKRD seeks for smaller to medium sized Commercial Radio stations."

2015 switchover for UK radio?

And what of those stories of the switchover date from analogue to digital radio perhaps arriving as soon as 2015? What will our elderly parents and grandparents (who still heavily rely on and love their old FM radios!) do when that point arrives?

"Whilst the target date of 2015 may be ambitious, the consumer-led criteria are achievable for operators who are committed to a digital future," says the Digital Radio UK rep.

"Without an ambitious target date, the alternative is to condemn the industry to an indefinite period of dual transmission, a financial burden that Commercial Radio cannot continue to bear and that represents a poor use of public funds for the BBC."

Stay tuned for further opinions and comment on the debates around the future of UK radio later this week, as we look for responses from across the industry to the government's new Digital Economy Bill announced in the Queen's speech to parliament.

Adam Hartley