Rajar figures show drop in DAB listeners

DAB radio sales stall, yet digital radio industry insists overall listening numbers in cars and via PCs and digital radios is still on the increase
DAB radio sales stall, yet digital radio industry insists overall listening numbers in cars and via PCs and digital radios is still on the increase

Fans of FM radio are suggesting that the proposed switchover to digital radio, currently slated for 2015, is never likely to happen.

The latest Rajar (Radio Joint Audience Research) figures show that DAB's share of UK radio listening fell from 15.8 per cent in the second quarter of this year to 15.3 per cent in the third quarter.

At the same time the share of listening via AM and FM radios actually increased over the same period, from 67.0 per cent to 67.6 per cent.

If you look at Rajar's own figures on the growth of DAB radio ownership in the UK between the second quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of the year then you will see that it has been a paltry 0.1 per cent increase. Why?

Digital radio blip or crisis?

These latest radio listening figures come at a difficult time for the digital radio industry, as culture minister Ed Vaizey is keen to push the Digital Radio Action Plan.

Ford Ennals, the chief executive of Digital Radio UK, still claims that digital radio listening as a whole – via radio, computers or digital TV - is up at the end of 2010, despite the DAB buying blip.

"We've achieved a step change in digital listening growth in 2010 and we see that sustained in Q3, with 17.5 per cent year on year growth," said Mr Ennals.

"The Digital Radio Action Plan aims to create a further step change in digital listening in 2011, when we should begin to see the benefits of investment in coverage, content, communications and cars."

DAB detractors say public uninterested

Yet the plan has a number of detractors in the radio industry. William Rogers, chief executive of local radio operator UKRD told The Telegraph this week: "What these figures show is just how sluggish the growth - or lack of it - in DAB listenership is.

"It doesn't come as a surprise to me because, as we all know, this whole DAB project is fraught with difficulties and simply does not have the overwhelming support of the listening public in the country. At this rate, there is never likely to be a DAB switchover and with all the problems that exist, I don't think there should be."

Whichever side you might choose to believe, there has clearly been a slight dip in consumer confidence in DAB over the last year. The real question is why?

Digital Radio UK responds

A Digital Radio UK spokesperson, responding to the comments made by the UKRD chief exec, told TechRadar:

"Although DAB share of platform is marginally down this quarter, it has sustained its growth year on year, and digital reach and listening has increased overall. 44 per cent of radio listeners listen to digital radio each week.

"We expect a step change to take place next year as a result of the work currently being undertaken and planned on coverage, content, communication, and cars."

Via The Telegraph and drdb.org

Adam Hartley