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“BBC should lead the digital way”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has spoken about the future of radio, saying he wants broadcasters and manufacturers to work together to launch new stations, develop new functions and engage the public with great content.

And he confirmed previous reports that the switchover to DAB should only happen when the vast majority of listeners have voluntarily adopted digital radio over analogue.

Mr Vaizey said the BBC had a "key" role to play.

He hoped that listeners would appreciate multi-channel national radio in the same way that TV viewers have enjoyed an explosion of channels: "If I were to suggest today that TV viewers should go back to five main channels, there would be outrage.

"I hope in a few years time, when we approach switchover, radio listeners will see the benefits of multi-channel national radio in exactly the same way that television viewers have seen such benefits.

"Digital radio is the opportunity to strengthen, to innovate, and to engage.''

Mr Vaizey said there was no "cast-iron commitment" to pinpointing a date for digital switchover at this stage, despite the outgoing Labour government giving a target date of 2015.

"That means a digital radio switchover in 2015 remains a target we aspire to, but for which a lot more work needs to be done before we can make it a cast-iron commitment."

He added that FM would not become a "ghetto" and would be integrated with digital stations so listeners could switch "seamlessly".

Earlier today, Radio Futurologist James Cridland posted a [link=http://james.cridland.net/blog/let-the-market-decide-the-digital-switchover-question/]blog[/link] suggesting the future should be multi-platform.

A Digital Radio Action Plan looking at the impact of switchover was also published today.

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