The CEO of the UKRD Group, which operates 16 local commercial radio stations across the UK, has written to the head of Digital Radio UK, accusing him of misleading MPs and consumers over digital switchover.
It follows media interviews last week and an appearance on the RadioToday Programme by DRUK’s Ford Ennals.
Here’s the open letter from William Rogers to Mr Ennals…
An Open Email to Ford Ennals CEO – DRUK
I am writing to you regarding a number of recent statements you have made, both in writing and verbally, during recent interviews and communications which, in my view, are clearly intended to mislead both Members of Parliament and consumers regarding the Governments present deliberations concerning the DAB switchover issue. This is a cause of great concern.
Whilst I understand that, as a lobby operation one purpose of which is to present all things DAB in the best possible light, it is a shame that you and your organisation have resorted to blatantly misleading information and tactics that can only be described as “unfortunate” at best.
First, your proposition in a recent BBC interview that a pathway to DAB existed for local FM stations, (listen again in case you’ve forgotten!) with no present identified route to DAB, was clearly wrong and your failure to recognise that this was at a trial stage and had numerous obstacles to overcome and, even then, was by no means a certain solution ( as the report itself outlines ) is, I am afraid, rather typical of the mis-information which is emerging all too regularly from DRUK.
Of more concern is your direct approach to Members of Parliament purporting to speak for local stations you do not represent, such as our station in Salisbury. Your letter to the local MP, a copy of which we have seen, is clearly intended to re-assure MP’s by indicating that they need have no fear about their stations future. You are not entitled to speak for any of our radio stations and we have taken steps to advise those Members of Parliament we are aware have received such a letter, that they should take no notice of the content of your letter as it does not reflect the stations opinion or, indeed, what we believe to be the accurate reflection of the issues facing our stations. Please desist from any suggestion that you are representing any station you are not entitled to speak on behalf of. It is not your business and you have no right to suggest you are entitled to comment on its view or approach to this issue.
Thirdly, you recently communicated with a Member of Parliament, again representing one of our stations, advising him that, and I quote, “In fact the proposals to move the National and major regional BBC and commercial stations from FM will open up the FM frequency for use by local commercial and community radio stations.” As you well know, this is incorrect and blatantly misleading. Whilst it is the case that community stations may benefit from this situation, both Ofcom and the Minister have made it clear that there are no such plans to issue licences on the FM spectrum to local commercial stations. Let me quote you a sentence written only recently by Minister, Ed Vaizey – “we do not foresee any circumstances where Ofcom would offer new FM licences on channels vacated by the BBC or commercial radio.” Again, this completely contradicts the statement you have made. Your misleading information shows yet again how completely out of touch your organisation is with the reality of what is being proposed and the effect it will have on local commercial radio. It is not surprising that getting on for 100 local commercial stations have now come together to object to this forced DAB switchover.
You are a lobbying group. You are a campaigning arm for the DAB switchover and digital radio more broadly. You have no right to speak up for stations in our portfolio and certainly less right to confuse the debate with ill-considered and misleading information particularly when it comes to briefing MP’s. We are taking steps to brief our Members of Parliament and ensure that they are not taken in by your organisations spin and misrepresentations.
Based upon the recent track record of DRUK, I am not expecting anything other in response to this email than the usual spin but I wanted to make it clear that the more you pedal this kind of rubbish the more clarity we will be seeking on behalf of our stations with those Members of Parliament concerned. An apology is in order but I doubt very much one will be forthcoming.
Chief Executive Officer – UKRD Group Ltd
Digital Radio UK response
In a statement, Digital Radio UK told RadioToday: “Digital Radio UK, alongside its shareholders the BBC, the major commercial radio groups, Arqiva, the vehicle industry and radio manufacturers, has been working closely with DCMS and Ofcom in the delivery of the Government Digital Radio Action Plan. We have written to MPs to reassure them that in the event of any future transition to digital, the future of local radio is secure.
“We have made the points that DCMS is determined to sustain the rich diversity of local radio, and that FM will be sustained alongside DAB. The proposals to move national and major regional BBC and commercial stations from FM would enable the FM frequency to continue to be used by local commercial and community radio stations. In the UK there are over 300 community, student and hospital stations, in addition to around 200 local commercial stations, and this plan will enable those on medium wave to move to FM and could support the launch of further local community stations.
“Government’s plan is to sustain FM alongside DAB as it has done with medium wave and FM for decades. Today millions of listeners switch to medium wave to listen to stations such as talkSPORT and BBC Radio 5 live, and we are confident that they will keep listening to their favourite local stations on FM.
“We have highlighted that:
– The vast majority of digital radios have included FM for many years and all digital radios now include FM. All digital radios in cars also already include FM.
– Ofcom is developing a small scale DAB solution that could potentially enable local commercial radio stations to move onto DAB. This development is at an early stage but DCMS is supporting this development and Ofcom will share it with small stations this week at a RadioCentre meeting.
“Any policy move to digital radio is many years away, and this transition will not happen until listeners and stations are ready. The immediate benefit of the policy will be the expansion of local DAB coverage and the launch of new local DAB multiplexes, which is good news for listeners. We remain confident that the end result will be an increase in the choice and diversity of local radio stations.”