Following one government department's decision to stop funding a dedicated traffic news radio station on DAB, another department says take-up of digital radio in cars is crucial to the growth of the platform.
We revealed exclusively on Monday that the Highways Agency funding for Traffic Radio is to be scrapped from next summer, potentially removing a niche service and creating another reason for people not to buy in-car digital radios.
A leading industry figure, who wanted to remain anonymous, told RadioToday.co.uk: "This is highly embarrassing for the government because on one hand they're saying radio companies need to invest in DAB and create alternative stations to make people want to buy digital radios, but then with the other they're taking away funding for something which is different to every other station on the platform."
The source added: "Digital radio multiplex operators are struggling as it is to get content on there that's unique, so when Traffic Radio comes off the 30 that it's on then there's not only lost income but less choice."
But a spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport told told RadioToday.co.uk that a dedicated traffic radio service might be more viable once more people have digital radio in their vehicles. "We've always acknowledged that take-up in cars will be crucial to the growth of DAB listening," she said. "The decision of car manufacturers to fit DAB as standard in cars from 2013 will undoubtedly boost listening figures. As digital listening grows and take-up in cars increases the case for a distinct traffic radio service on digital, whether public or commercial, is likely to be compelling."
The response to that from our source? "The government should put its money where its mouth is on this one," they say. "To suggest they might do it again in the future when the potential audience is bigger doesn't help and support the industry to get more people listening on DAB does it? The industry – especially the commercial groups – want to see some guarantees from the government that DAB has a future. At the moment it's just words and the actions don't seem to match."