David Prosser: Not much of a signal from digital radio

Outlook: Radio executives have always thought 2015 was an ambitious target for switchover
Click to follow
The Independent Online

That should worry Digital Radio UK, the body trying gently to edge the country towards digital switchover in 2015. Although there were technical reasons for the dip at the end of last year, it knows it has to get digital radio's share of the market to 50 per cent or higher by the end of 2013 in order for switchover to go live in five years. At the current rate – the increase in uptake during the whole of 2009 was less than three percentage points – there is no chance of hitting the target.

That is why the idea of a scrappage scheme for radio is now being floated, which would see discounts for people trading in old analogue sets in favour of new digital models. Digital penetration into UK households had been rising quickly, but seems now to be plateauing.

The issue, however, is who is going to pay for such initiatives – unlike the car-scrappage scheme, there isn't going to be any public money available for this one. As for Digital Radio UK, it is a joint venture between the BBC and commercial radio, but has little cash of its own. It is hard to see how the BBC could stump up considerable new money for a big push for digital radio, given the constraints on its budgets over the next few years, while commercial organisations have yet to see a return on existing digital investments.

Radio executives have always thought 2015 was an ambitious target for switchover. "Unrealistic" might be the more appropriate word.