UK – working towards a digital radio future

Issue 14 UK

The UK was one of the very earliest adopters of the Eureka 147 standards in 2002, and many important developments have taken place since then.

In the UK, 26.9% of radio listening takes place via digital platforms (70% of this is via DAB, 20% DTV, and 10% internet). Currently, 38.2% of UK homes have a digital radio, up from 33% a year ago (RAJAR Q2 2011). To date, a cumulative total of 13 million digital radios have been sold in the UK (GfK).

No digital radio switchover date has yet been set by the UK Government. Government has set two criteria for a digital radio switchover: that digital listening reaches 50% of all radio listening; that coverage for national services must be comparable to FM, and local DAB coverage reaches 90% of the population and major roads.

The Government-Industry Digital Radio Action Plan, launched in July 2010 by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, has provided a focal point for digital radio in the UK. This important document provides a framework within which broadcasters, manufacturers, retailers and the consumer can shape future radio policy in the UK, with a timing plan for the actions required for a Government decision. As part of the Digital Radio Action Plan, a series of working groups have been established addressing issues such as coverage planning, consumer communications and receiver specifications. Work is also underway to develop a government owned Digital Radio Certification Mark which will be licensed to minimum specification –compliant products and vehicle installation services. Recent listening figures have highlighted positive momentum in digital listening and Digital Radio UK expect an announcement from Government on switchover in 2013.

An agreement between broadcasters and Government about the funding principles for local DAB build-out (currently at 60-70%) is under discussion. There is further detailed work still to do and it is anticipated that this process will be completed in later in 2011.

Manufacturers are constantly broadening and strengthening their digital radio product ranges, including an increasing number of hybrid sets and additional features such as pause, rewind and record. They support the consistent messaging and marketing of digital radio in UK retailers. In partnership with broadcasters, manufacturers are continuing their work to create a more interactive and visually rich radio experience for consumers.

In most locations listeners can not only receive the FM stations they love, but can also listen to around 20 additional digital-only stations. In the last year, new national digital stations have been launched: Smooth UK, Jazz FM, Absolute 80s and 90s launched on the DAB network; the Capital and Kiss Networks are now available nationally (80%) on digital; BBC launched Radio 4 Extra in April this year, which has now become the UK’s most listened-to digital-only station. In the run-up to and during the Olympics in 2012 the BBC will launch a new digital only station, BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra, to cover all aspects of the games.

As part of their national coverage plans, the BBC is on course to build out to 93% national DAB digital radio coverage (by population) by the end of 2011. This includes building 39 new transmitters in 2011. The BBC is planning to build out to FM equivalence over the coming years.

Digital Radio UK continues to work with industry to communicate the benefits of digital radio to consumers, using well known ‘voices for radio’, and by creating consistently branded point of sale materials for consumer electronics retailers.

For more information please visit

Laurence Harrison
Digital Radio UK



This entry was posted on September 25, 2011 by in Content and Services, Digital Radio Rollout, Europe, Marketing, Receivers.

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