Plans to extend local digital radio coverage moved a step closer today as Government, the BBC and commercial operators signed a joint agreement, establishing the framework for up to £21 million of new investment in radio infrastructure.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishes an agreement in principle to fund the build-out of local DAB to FM equivalences over the next 5 years, with a commitment to consider further funding if necessary.
The MoU also means at least five new local multiplexes, including in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, will be launched within 18 months. In addition, the MoU confirms the Government’s commitment to a decision on radio switchover in 2013.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This is a positive and significant step forward for the future of digital radio in the UK. As more and more listeners make the switch to digital, it’s vital that we keep on increasing the areas able to receive a digital signal. Government, the BBC and the commercial operators are working together to ensure this happens.”
Government will now ask Ofcom to form a joint planning group, which will be tasked with producing the technical and implementation plans for a radio switchover. Work will also continue on the Digital Radio Action Plan to ensure that the Government has all of the information necessary to make an informed decision on radio switchover in 2013.
The signing of the MOU comes at the same time as the publication of a methodology report on the Government’s cost benefit analysis (CBA) of a radio switchover. It details the inputs and assumptions on which the cost benefit analysis is based, including expected consumer behaviour and future market growth. To ensure that the conclusions of the CBA are robust, Government is seeking views about the proposals set out in the report.