Saturday 4 July 2020

British Commercial Radio Will Continue On FM At Least Until 2032.

A major setback for the promoters of the DAB system
Listeners of popular radio stations, such as Classic FM and TalkSport, will be able to access their favorite shows for another ten years despite rapid changes in technology and radio listening. Media Minister John Whittingdale has now decided how commercial radio will be licensed in the coming decade.

Almost 60 percent of all radio listening is now done digitally (DAB, the digital TV network, satellite and Internet), but analogue stations on the FM and AM-band are still important for millions of listeners. Another FM switch-off delay is regarded as a major setback for the promoters of the DAB system. 

Several analog commercial radio licenses will expire from the beginning of 2022. Provided that the stations also broadcast on digital radio, the government has decided to allow Ofcom to renew these analog licenses for a further ten-year period. As we move into an increasingly digital world, we make sure that the licensing landscape for radio is fair and up-to-date and allows the audience to enjoy a wide range of high-quality stations, says Whittingdale.

The government's decision came after extensive consultation with the radio industry and clarified the long-term licensing arrangements for FM and AM radio services in light of the transition to digital listening.

Ofcom is now authorized to renew these licenses for a further period. The changes only affect analogue commercial radio stations. DAB radio and community radio are covered by other licensing arrangements.



Now there are no doubts that FM broadcasting will stay on in the UK until at least 2032. This will also be the case of the BBC and community radio. Meanwhile British broadcasting will also develop for mobile broadband including 5G Broadcast.

Previous plans have been to close FM when the "digital listening" amounts to at least 50%. However, it has been found that both radio listeners and radio stations in particular local and community stations want to keep FM radio. Also the BBC has also previously announced that it will continue on all three platforms; FM, DAB and the Internet.

It is estimated that there are at least 110 million FM receivers in UK households and vehicles. DAB radio has been established in the country since 1995, but has not had the impact that was previously hoped for. The old DAB system has not yet been changed to the more modern DAB+ which is now used in all other countries with regular DAB broadcasting as Norway.

The government's decision is another indication that DAB will not be a future main platform for radio, but rather the Internet which eventually will replace FM. There are several setbacks with DAB which was not envisaged a decade ago. Among the setbacks are that DAB is not smartphone able and cannot be used for play or pod radio.

The fact that FM radio is now allowed to continue for another 12 years is another uphill hardship for the DAB lobby. Especially as the UK is the dominant DAB-country.

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