Will FM radio signals be switched off?

There are no plans to completely ‘switch off’ the FM band for radio stations in the UK.

A switch-over or switch-off date was proposed in 2009 which would see national and regional stations become digital only, if certain conditions were met, in 2015. The Government announced in 2013 that a date has not been set for digital switch over, and that there may never be a date by which stations would become digital only.

There are several reasons for this, other than the number of analogue radios still in use across the UK. Around a fifth of all radio listening happens in the car, but less than 10% of cars are equipped with digital radios. Our own research shows that many new cars sold today don’t come with DAB Digital Radio and some manufacturers don’t offer it as an option. The cost of adding digital radio to a car is significantly more than the cost of a new portable radio for the home.

Many local radio stations, plus more than two hundred community radio stations, currently don’t have a viable way to broadcast on digital radio.

There is also little use for the FM radio signals after switch-off, other than broadcast radio. This contrasts with digital switchover for television, where the signals could be auctioned and used for other purposes.

Some countries do intend to switch over to digital only, such as Norway and Denmark.

If you’re looking to buy a new radio it’s certainly worth choosing one which includes DAB and DAB+. Many new radios now come with a tickmark to indicate that they work with FM, DAB and DAB+. If some stations are eventually removed from FM you won’t need to upgrade your radio.