After the UK Government’s sustained promotion and protectionism of the expensive digital radio - which will never reach much of the highlands – Ofcom has just published its Digital Radio Report 2012: The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2012.
The report looks at the availability and take-up of digital radio services in the UK.
It shows that almost three in ten (29.5%) of all radio listening hours in the twelve months to June 2012 were to digital radio – and this is presented as a triumph after a sustained five year campaign by the Westminster Government to force DAB radio on a largely uninterested and unwilling public.
In Scotland, the muscular part of this campaign – the planned universal switch off of the analogue radio signal – would have left most of the highlands and islands with no radio reception at all. Digital radio transmission requires hugely expensive multiplex licences from Ofcom and any broadcaster investing in such a licence has to have an audience catchment area capable of returning on that investment.
The populations in the Highlands and Islands are simply far too small to be earners for those providing such a service and so there would have been no suppliers, The possible exception was the Inverness area whose economic viability was marginal but whose city status made a certain degree of loss acceptable.
For the elderly, who make up such a high proportion of the Scottish population and markedly that of the Highlands and Islands, radio is a constant companion, regularly the only one; often the only carrier of news; and a voice in the night.
For Argyll enlisted the help of Alan Reid in bringing to the attention of the then Culture Secretary at Westminster the absolute impossibility of turning off the analogue signal in the Highlands and Islands.
It emerged that this was not only a situation the UK government was not aware of – but that they hadn’t even thought of such situations.
A continuing worry is that a successor Culture Secretary appeared not to be aware of his predecessor’s agreement then that the signal would not be switched off in the Highlands; and since this area is below the radar in Whitehall, the situation requires to be closely monitored at Holyrood.
The way the market is going, with only three in ten radio users even now getting and taking DAB radio, it is highly probable that the analogue signal will never be switched off. As the population becomes ever more predominantly Internet users, that platform, already a major source of access to radio programmes worldwide, will make the production of other than Internet radio sets uneconomic, outside high value niche markets.
All that Ofcom can say in this report is that: ‘digital radio sets were the most widely-used method to listen to digital services’.
That means that amongst the three in ten using digital radio, DAB radio sets were no more than ‘the most widely used method’ of listening.
This entire operation has been an indefensible fraud on the public and on the public purse.
It was policy led not demand led and, even in the face of a variety of threats and compulsions – car makers were compelled to fit new cars with DAB radios – demand has remained resistant.
For Argyll’s previous articles on this matter are linked below, dating back to 2008. They carry the history of what is an ongoing, expensive, uninformed and inevitably doomed government campaign.
- More disguising of the digital radio disaster
- Ignore media reports: For Argyll and Alan Reid MP have ensured that there will be no analogue radio switchoff in Argyll
- Channel 4 pulls out of DAB radio: For Argyll has warned on DAB all along
- Radio service in Argyll and the Highlands after the digital switchover
- Highlands and islands may lose radio service for good as Westminster plans to switch off the signal
- Beware: being a DAB hand may be an expensive mistake