UK Regulator Issues First Digital Radio Progress Report

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The United Kingdom's Office of Communication, commonly known as Ofcom, has issued its first annual report on the state of digital radio in Great Britain. Creation and distribution of the report is just part of the UK's digital radio action plan draft released earlier this summer. The plan specifies that no analog sunset for national channels will occur unless 50 percent of all listening has moved to digital, and that DAB coverage becomes "comparable" to that of FM, reaching all major roads and 90 percent of the population.

The report classifies digital radio as any audio programming delivered via a digital platform, including DAB, digital TV audio channels (Sky, Freeview, Virgin Media, Freesat), and the Internet, including PCs, net appliances (such as Wi-fi radios) and Smartphones.

An executive summary of the report suggests that digital radio listening at the end of March 2010 represented about 24 percent of total national listening hours. DAB listening constituted the majority of total digital listening at about 63 percent, while DTV finished second at 17 percent, and Internet listening accounted for 13 percent. Predictably, digital listening is significantly lower among those 65 years and older.

Current receiver totals for analog radios are given at about 75 million for homes and 35 million in vehicles, while the sale total of DAB receivers is estimated at about 11 million combined. DAB radios constitute roughly 15 percent of receivers in the home but only about 1 percent of all those in vehicles.

As for penetration of DAB radio, use is reported among 34 percent of households, while 17 percent of those without DAB claim that they are likely to buy a set in the next 12 months. Even so, 55 percent of respondents without DAB said they were unlikely to buy a receiver within the next year.

Ofcom will continue to issue the report on an annual basis with the understanding that regulators will reference it as a key benchmark in determining when the UK is ready for a projected analog sunset on national radio channels.

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