New UK Government: Nation's Digital Radio Plan Remains on Course

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New UK Government: Nation's Digital Radio Plan Remains on Course

Jul 21, 2010 10:00 AM, By Mark Krieger

A new conservative government in the UK won't significantly change that nation's regulatory approach to a digital radio transition. At least that's the message being conveyed by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as reported in a recent story in the Guardian UK, where the conservative MP spelled out some specific commitments intended to comfort older Britons nervous about what edgy domestic media have described as "the end of analog radio" currently slated for 2015.

In his comments Vaizey specifically pointed out what informed observers of UK telecom policy have known all along: The nation's digital transition will not silence most local and community FM radio outlets for the foreseeable future, as the existing analog FM spectrum will remain available to small broadcasters who can't afford or don't wish to move up to a DAB multiplex.

"We do not intend to switch off FM. FM will be available to local listeners as long as is necessary," said the minister as he spoke at a recent London engagement.

Vaizey also reassured the nation that the 2015 shutdown of analog national BBC and commercial radio outlets would not occur until the government could reliably document that at least 50 percent of all listening was taking place via DAB. He also mentioned that discussions were underway on whether national receiver tax money might be used to subsidize the cost of digital receivers for low-income households.

The new Culture Minister moves easily in media circles and apparently has good radio credentials. Wikipedia identifies him as a former conservative journalist, having penned items in The Guardian since 1998, as well as the Sunday Times news review, The Times, the Daily Telegraph and editorials for the Evening Standard. He's familiar with radio as well, making appearances on shows carried on BBC Radio 5 and a regular panelist on The Wright Stuff carried on BBC Radio 4. He's even been heard presenting People and Politics on the prestigious BBC World Service.