Tory lord on digital radio switchover: “Think of the badgers”

By | Published on Thursday 1 July 2010

The much previously reported plan to take most radio services off FM in 2015 and make the DAB network the primary radio system in the UK were discussed by members of the House Of Lords yesterday.

As previously reported, the 2015 switchover date is set out in the Digital Economy Act, and has the support of the BBC and the larger commercial radio groups. However, numerous smaller commercial radio companies have hit out at the proposal, saying it is unrealistic, and will force an inferior and more expensive service on consumers who don’t want it.

Tory lord Tim Renton, a former arts minister, expressed some of those concerns yesterday. He said there were still “many things wrong” with the digital audio broadcasting system. Speaking to David Shutt, the Lib Dem lord speaking for the government on the digital radio issue, Renton asked: “Can you assure me that you will do something to cope with, for example, excessive cost, poor coverage and the muffled and fizzy noise it makes? Can some of this get cured before the analogue radio is finally disappeared?”

Shutt, who announced the government would publish a plan for digital radio switchover in the next two weeks, added: “I’m led to believe that 75 per cent of the people we ask say digital radio is a better radio in terms of what they can hear”.

I’m not sure Renton was convinced by that argument, though he admitted that he wouldn’t really be happy until cheap battery-powered digital radio sets would work in his vineyard. He said: “I have to confess I have an interest in this matter, as I’m a partner in a vineyard where we regularly use analogue radio all night to stop the badgers from eating our grapes”.