The government has tentatively scheduled the digital radio switchover for 2015. This means that stations will cease to broadcast on analogue frequencies and will exclusively broadcast via DAB. However, many critics are sceptical on the issue of a full digital switchover and whether it is truly feasible due to some inherent problems with DAB.
Poor DAB coverage is a huge obstacle facing the switchover. Listeners face very few issues in built up areas, although coverage can be poor to non-existent in some rural areas. The BBC have been charged with the task of getting coverage up to over 90% of the population before switchover, but with the cost running in the hundreds of millions, an already stretched BBC are likely to struggle.
Whilst DAB offers a clearer, interference free signal, sound quality can sometimes be of worse quality than analogue. This could lead to a wholesale change to DAB being resisted by listeners who may feel they are being forced to use an inferior service.
Many local and commercial radio stations are against the change to DAB due to what many see as the prohibitive costs to switching and the fear that some of their hard earned audience share could be lost in the switchover. Without the full support of these stations, a full switchover seems unlikely.
The argument can be made that DAB is already out of date. With new technologies such as satellite radio, internet radio and DAB+ experiencing high levels of growth, many fear a full switchover to DAB could quickly be rendered obsolete soon after it has happened. The growth of online only tv programmes, such as Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s Afternoon Delights mirrors the rise in online on-demand radio programmes.
Although a full digital switchover looks unlikely, consumers can still take advantage of some of the many benefits offered by digital radio and still hold on to the best of analogue as the vast majority of digital radio receivers are capable of receiving both signals.