BBC role in possible future digital radio switchover confirmed


The Government has outlined its position on what role the BBC will play when a digital radio switchover date is announced.

Stressing that a decision on that switchover is not going to be made now, it says it's "likely to be taken by the Government at some point during the next Charter Period."

In the event of a digital radio switchover, the BBC will be required to build out its national DAB digital radio network further, according to the Government White Paper on BBC Charter Renewal, published on Thursday. Already the BBC's national DAB multiplex is on course to reach 97% of the UK population this year.

The BBC will also be required to boost coverage of its radio stations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that DAB coverage matches FM coverage. Currently these stations are carried on commercial DAB multiplexes, and their coverage concentrates on highly-populated, commercially viable areas.

The Government also expects the BBC to ensure that "appropriate enhancements were made to its local DAB coverage in England – subject to value for money", although these services are also carried on commercial multiplexes. Critics say that as a result, commercial radio operators carried on local DAB will get a free coverage boost, courtesy of licence fee payers.

The BBC would also have to reach an agreement with commercial radio operators on sector-wide switchover marketing plans, as well as the arrangements and funding for the delivery phase of any future switchover.


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