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Broadcasters see future for FM, DAB and IP

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Representatives from the BBC and commercial radio have cautioned against an imminent switchover to digital.

The BBC’s Director of Radio and Music, Bob Shennan, was speaking at the Radiodays Europe conference in Vienna last week.

He said the BBC is committed to digital radio, but that the landscape should be reviewed in a few years’ time. While progress has been made, “switchover now would be premature”.

“I want to say something here about the BBC and DAB. We all once thought DAB was the only digital future for Radio. But audiences want choice. We now know DAB is very important but as a part of the story, along with FM and IP. We need to do more before we consider a switchover in the UK, and for that to be genuinely audience-led,” said Bob Shennan.

IP refers to content delivered over the internet, such as live streaming radio to apps, smart speakers and computers. In February the corporation passed the 1 million mark for unique requests for the BBC Audio Voice app. The BBC will launch new skills in the coming months.

An updated “audio product” will be launched by the BBC later this year, which aims to combine all live radio stations, “an audio streaming offer” and on-demand content in a personalised product.

The Government is due to consider whether to set a timetable for switchover when the digital share of radio listening reaches 50%. Having reached 49.9% in the latest figures, it could reach this milestone in the next few months.

The comments about the future of FM were echoed by the founder of Global, which owns Heart, Capital, Radio X, Smooth, LBC and some digital-only stations.

“We agree with the BBC that the time for a switch-off of FM is not now. We are delighted to fully support both DAB, and IP delivery of content. We have started many DAB stations on the D1 platform recently, invested in local DAB transmission and invested significant resources in new apps like The Global Player, home to all Global’s stations on mobile and connected devices,” said Ashley Tabor OBE.

“That said, around half of radio listening still comes from FM. With an installed user base like that, it would be premature to advocate an FM switch-off at this time.”

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