David Prosser: No delay for radio's digital switchover

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Outlook The Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, shares the view of the previous government that 2015 is a realistic target for the switchover to digital radio broadcasting (he says as much in a speech today) but his determination to stick to his predecessors' timetable is curious.

For one thing, there is no gain for the coalition Government. There will be no television-style "digital dividend" from switching off the analogue radio signal and the move is likely to be unpopular. There is a great deal of carping about the quality of digital in many parts of the country and converting car radios to the new system will cost drivers several hundred pounds each.

Moreover, it seems unlikely that the target is achievable. The commitment has always been that the switchover will be announced two years in advance, and that digital radio's market share must be at least 50 per cent before the decision is made. A target of 2015 thus implies a major leap in penetration over the next three years from today's level of about 21 per cent.

One thing that would help, according to digital radio's supporters, is some sort of scrappage scheme – discounts for people who trade in their analogue sets. But it is difficult to imagine Mr Vaizey having much success in selling government support for such an initiative to the Treasury, or in persuading the private sector to pay.