London - Jul 2, 2012 - Plans to increase coverage of DAB throughout the U.K. went ahead today as a memorandum of understanding was signed by the UK government, the BBC and commercial broadcasters. The memorandum is an agreement in principle to fund the build-out of more local DAB transmission facilities, at a cost of up to £21million (about $31M), over the next five years. At least five new local multiplexes, including in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, will be launched within 18 months.
However, according to an article in the Guardian U.K., commercial radio interests were reluctant to commit funds until the government has committed to an actual date of the digital switchover (and cessation of analog FM broadcasting there). This same article goes on to say that the commercial firms signed only because the agreement is not legally binding. Even the BBC was reluctant, since its funding is somewhat in question ahead of the pending (2017) license fee settlement.
The government has said that the decision on the actual date of the switchover will be given next year, but a switchover date can only be set in place by the government when 50 percent of all radio listening is digital and when national DAB coverage is comparable to FM and local DAB reaches 90 percent of the population and all major roads. Currently, digital sources account for about 29 percent of radio listening throughout the U.K.