Government tests life without FM in digital radio pilot

By | Published on Monday 11 February 2013

Digital Radio

So, would it make much difference to your life if the FM dial went silent all of a sudden?

Earlier this month the government announced a project in Bath that will see 235 people remove analogue radios from their lives, to see what it’s like living in a digital-only radio age.

Research firm Ipsos MORI will monitor the six week initiative, which will see 235 people using only digital radio platforms, including the sometimes divisive Digital Audio Broadcasting network. Older, assisted living and disabled people will be amongst those involved in the trial, as will people who are registered blind or partially sighted.

As much previously reported, the move from analogue to digital-only radio is taking much longer than it did in the TV domain, with the radio industry itself split on the long-term viability of the DAB platform.

Some say that the DAB network isn’t extensive or popular enough to replace the FM network, though others point out that consumer uptake of DAB services would likely rocket if a deadline was set for shutting off FM (in reality FM wouldn’t actually be shut down immediately, rather most key services would become DAB-only, though FM would remain for areas were DAB coverage is patchy or where there isn’t room for all local stations on the DAB network).

The six week pilot in Bath will inform the government’s policy on the shift to digital radio, which is currently under review. Lib Dem MP Don Foster, the local MP for Bath and the Liberal Democrats’ former spokesman on Culture, Media and Sport, said last week: “Bath has a great choice of stations on digital radio and I’m delighted that Bath has been chosen as the location for the Government Go Digital pilot”.

He added: “I know the Department Of Culture, Media & Sport are keen to find out more about the experience of older people, assisted living people, disabled people and those who are registered blind or partially-sighted. Radio is of special significance to all these groups and it is vital that we consider fully their views and concerns before implementing any decision to move from the current technology”.