Go Digital Trial: Making Radio Help Schemes Inclusive (Press Release)

Recently, the Government’s ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath gave digital radios to vulnerable people who might be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ when UK radio switches to digital, to assess how well they will cope. But the study doesn’t live up to the Government’s claim to be ‘committed to looking at the full range of human factor issues’ involved in radio need, says Tim Leech, CEO of WaveLength charity. And digital switchover can’t go ahead until vulnerable consumers in all groups are catered for.

Recently, the Government’s ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath gave digital radios to vulnerable people who might be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ when UK radio switches to digital, to assess how well they will cope. But the study doesn’t live up to the Government’s claim to be ‘committed to looking at the full range of human factor issues’ involved in radio need, says Tim Leech, CEO of WaveLength charity. And digital switchover can’t go ahead until vulnerable consumers in all groups are catered for.  

Because of WaveLength’s work donating TVs and radios to isolated people living in poverty, Tim knows that many different impairments, physical and mental illnesses, and circumstances like domestic violence or homelessness, can restrict people’s ability to access the written word. This means they are extremely reliant on radio to stay informed, entertained and in touch with the outside world. “It’s like a trusted friend,” said one vulnerable Bath trial participant.

However, Go Digital trial participants were very limited: only including blind people, those over 75, and those who needed support on a daily basis (i.e. residential support). Most notably, it didn’t collect data on literacy – even though 59% of vulnerable participants said they couldn’t understand the written and on-screen instructions.

Even among these people, success was mixed – but the Government is presenting the trial as a success for digital radio. In fact, nearly 40% of vulnerable people included found it difficult to set up their new sets, and 19% found it difficult to use them once set up. This figure increased for certain groups; e.g., 25% of elderly women found it hard to use. As a result, 40% of vulnerable people say they will not choose to buy a digital radio set unless they have to.

WaveLength believes that Government needs to set up more comprehensive trials to survey the effect of a potential switchover on all vulnerable consumers. This includes people who will have trouble affording, picking out, and setting up a new radio, and those who rely on radio due to low literacy levels and/ or inability to afford a TV licence or use a TV. With real information in place, a digital radio Help Scheme can make proper provision for the people most at risk of isolation from loss of radio.

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