Press release: BBC builds new digital transmitters aimed at car radios

Today, WaveLength received a round-up of activity from DRUK (Digital Radio UK), with information about the growing popularity of digital radio (otherwise known as DAB).

Consumer watchdog Ofcom has released a report on digital radio in its capacity as chair of a DAB coverage and spectrum planning group. Meanwhile, surveys show that DAB car radios have become increasingly popular, especially among motorists. Some 50% of motorists say they would not buy a new car without a digital radio. These results encourage involved parties to press on with replicating the old FM coverage areas with DAB capability. In fact, the BBC has pledged to bring DAB signal to 97% of the area of the UK – and claims that coverage now stands at 93% following the construction of 117 new transmitters.

Widespread access to the latest radio technologies is, of course, a good thing. At WaveLength, beneficiaries often tell us how their radio sets have changed their lives. They feel that they have company when they listen to their favourite programmes before they go to bed at night, and as soon as they get up each morning. At WaveLength, we’re thrilled at the wide range of stations and high quality of original programming which DAB signal provides.

However, DAB conversion still poses problems. For one thing, we find it hard to square the massive investment which the tax-funded BBC is putting into digital transmitters at a time of national cuts. A large part of this financial burden should be falling on the commercial stations and manufacturers who stand to profit at least as much as the BBC from digital radio adoption, as our CEO, Tim Leech, and other members of the Consumer Expert Group, have emphasised in the past.

We also encourage digital radio providers to focus not only on the relatively young, highly mobile people who install DAB radios in their cars, but also the elderly, ill and isolated people who love their radios, but are easily confused by change. Because WaveLength speaks actively on digital policy, has strong connections with the BBC, and our CEO, Tim Leech, has testified on the issue to the House of Lords, we’re kept in the loop about new developments. But far too many elderly or isolated people are still confused about the issue of digital radio. Even the different shapes of the radios – pressing buttons rather than turning dials – can be incredibly confusing to the very elderly or those suffering from dementia.

For some reason, digital radio is not getting the same amount of publicity as digital TV, leaving many confused about their options. All parties concerned should be doing everything possible to ensure that everybody in the UK not only has access to DAB coverage, but can afford the equipment and has information and advice about the process.