Radio switchover delayed as listeners shun digital

The switchover to digital radio is likely to be delayed because the Government has failed to meet listening targets.

Digital sets were expected to account for half of all radio listening by 2013 but the figure stands at just 29.2 per cent. Ofcom confirmed yesterday that the 50 per cent threshold - which the Government set as its trigger for a switchover - would not be reached by this time next year, as had been planned.

John Mottram, head of radio for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, conceded that digital take-up had fallen short of expectations, but said the Government remained committed to turning off the FM signal.

He said an announcement about “the direction of travel” would be made next year.

A department spokesman said it would set out a range of dates for when the switchover could occur, but insisted that the analogue switch-off would not happen until digital listening reached 50 per cent, meaning that the process was likely to be delayed beyond the 2015 target date.

A new advertising campaign has been devised by Digital Radio UK, the industry body, in an effort to convince the public of the merits of the new system. “A lot of people still don’t get it – they don’t understand what digital radio offers and why it’s important,” said Ford Ennals, its chief executive.

In the event of switchover, an estimated 25 million cars will be left with no radio signal. DAB is currently fitted as standard in only a quarter of new cars.