The DAB switchover debate hit the Commons again this week, with an adjournment debate ahead of an official announcement by the Government due on December 16th.
Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham in Buckinghamshire brought forward the debate on behalf of her local station Mix 96.
Many more MP’s from all over the country, and from both sides of the House of Commons, joined in making strong interventions during the debate supporting the need fot their local station to remain on-air using the cost-effective technology of FM.
Cheryl Gillan said DAB is fundamentally the wrong platform for local radio stations at this time due to the coverage difference from FM. “Most stations would find themselves paying for more coverage than they currently get on FM, whether they want it or not” the MP said. “This debate is not about cancelling the digital programme for radio but it is about finding a solution that protects and accommodates our small radio stations.”
The debate was joined in by MPs representing areas served by Splash FM, Minster Fm, JACK fm, The Bay, Radio Wave, KLFM, kmfm, Pirate FM, Spire FM and MKFM.
Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey responded. He said he will address concerns about coverage on December 16th and there will be no switchover until listeners are ready.
“We have never said we will require small stations to go digital, and FM can work in tandem with DAB.”
“Let me make it clear. I am a fan of digital radio and I think digital radio is the future but my criteria has always been about coverage. I want it to be the same as FM, and we will not be pushed into a switchover date.”
Vaizey also praised the work of the Digital Radio UK team, Ford Ennals, Jane Ostler and Laurence Harrison.
The Labour MP for Bishop Auckland shadow culture minister Helen Goodman suggested at least 75% of all listening should be via digital platforms before any switchover target was set, rather than the previous suggestion of 50%.
In reaction, UKRD’s CEO William Rogers told RadioToday: “Helen Goodman and Labour are clearly grasping the realities of what the Governments policy on DAB switchover will mean to millions of people if the forced switchover proceeds any time soon and I, like many other local commercial radio operators, will be welcoming this intervention in the DAB switchover debate.
“Listeners and consumers clearly have a potential new champion in Helen Goodman and this statement by her reflects a real and genuine concern about this matter from the perspective of consumers up and down the length and breadth of the country.”
A spokeswoman for Digital Radio UK told us: “Referring to the widely-expected switchover announcement, the Minister reminded the House that actual dates for radio switchover can only be announced once coverage has been built out and the majority of listening is to digital platforms, so it will be led by listeners.
“He said valued local and community radio stations, including those in his own constituency, and he hoped that stations would be involved in the further development of Ofcom’s small-scale DAB solution, which could allow them a route to digital. He said that digital radios come with FM, and he anticipated that prices of domestic radios and car adapters would fall. He also spoke about the popularity of digital stations including BBC 6 Music.”