BBC rule out funding Digital Radio Switchover

16 Oct 2015 03:22 PM

In responding to the DCMS Green Paper on BBC Charter renewal the BBC says that it cannot afford to fund Digital Radio Switchover.

The BBC has ruled itself out of funding digital radio switchover, saying the cost of the project could put at risk stations such as 6 Music, inspite of the BBC being one of the driving forces behind digital radio takeup, and with a lineup of services including 6 Music and Radio 4 Extra which each have more than 2 million listeners.

The BBC, in its response to the government's green paper on the future of the corporation said: "Within the budget funding agreement, the BBC cannot fund the costs of such a switchover without significantly impacting services.

"It would be counter-productive for the BBC to be required to help fund switchover to a digital world from which it was simultaneously removing much-loved digital radio services."

The cost of upgrading the nationwide transmitter network, only one aspect of the total cost of switchover, is estimated at between £40m and £45m a year.

The BBC said there was no room in its latest funding agreement, in which it took on the cost of free TV licences for the over-75s, to pay for radio switchover.

It added: "Further build out of the digital audio broadcasting networks to reach the same coverage as FM would be a major undertaking, likely to increase radio distribution costs by between £40m to £45m a year exclusive of any work to maintain the existing networks.

"We are not convinced of the value for money case for any further such investment, particularly while digital listening remains below 50%, with DAB listening only a proportion of that."

The BBC said: "If the government proceeds with switchover, this will likely impose cost on some consumers and likely require marketing and communications effort by industry.

The BBC were highly suportive and active in the switchiover of TV with £300m of licence fee money spent to help the elderly and disabled during digital TV switchover. 

Paul Hide of techUK comments: "Digital Radio Switchover will only be achieved with the active support of the BBC and we call for the BBC to make provision for the funding and planning for this switchover in the next Charter period. It would be highly inefficient and costly for analogue and digital distribution systems have to run alongside each other in the longer term due to a failure of Government and Industry to follow through on the plans to migrate from analogue to digital radio".

techUK actively support the supply chain community in moving along the pathway to digital radio switchover. To find out more about our work in this area contact:

Paul Hide