FM Radio to Continue Until 2030

FM should continue until at least 2030 in the UK according to a Digital Radio and Audio Review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The review has been welcomed by the BBC, Global and Bauer saying FM plays an important part in people’s lives and radio should remain free at the point of use.

Previously, the Digital Radio Action Plan proposed that the earliest date that the government could consider setting a switch-off timetable for FM and AM networks was when digital accounted for at least 50 percent of all UK radio listening.

Digital listening currently accounts for more than 58 percent of listening according to the latest RAJAR data.

The review found analogue radio listening will account for just 12 to 14 per cent of all radio listening by 2030, but FM, in particular, remains highly valued by many listeners, especially those who are older or more vulnerable, drive older cars or live in areas with limited DAB coverage.

AM services, accounting for less than 3 per cent of all listening, should develop a plan to retire national medium wave services, given the cost of running duplicate networks.

Government Urged to Implement Findings of Radio Review

The Government is being urged move swiftly to accept and implement the recommendations of a comprehensive review of UK radio and audio, to ensure that audiences can easily access their favourite radio stations in future, however they choose to listen to them.

The joint Government and industry Digital Radio & Audio Review was commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport in February 2020 with the objective of assessing likely future trends in listening and strengthening UK radio and audio sector.

Over the last 18 months a broad cross-section of stakeholders have worked on identifying what steps will be required to ensure that the British radio industry continues to be a success story well into the future.

The recommendations include proposals to ensure that online platforms support the availability and prominence of commercial and BBC radio services online and through voice-activated smart speakers such as the Amazon Alexa. It is estimated that at least 33% of UK adults now have access to smart speakers.

The report outlines around 40 recommendations for Government to consider, covering a host of important areas such as distribution, the role of digital platforms, deregulation as well as training and diversity. The principal recommendations from the review are below>

 Principal review recommendations

  • No FM switch off before 2030 – both FM and DAB frequencies should remain available for as long as it is required by UK radio. Any FM switchover is ruled out until 2030 at least, but with a review of progress likely around 2025
  • The Government should consider introducing new legislation that makes clear that platform operators must not limit or restrict access to services or charge for carriage of UK audio services
  • Competition regulators should have powers sufficient to be able to safeguard the findability, discoverability and prominence of third-party radio stations and other audio content which offers public value on connected audio platforms
  • Government should consider measures on platforms whose services are carried in cars, to protect the prominence of radio on the dashboard
  • Government to consider bringing forward legislation to support local radio operators by simplifying commercial radio licensing and format regulation
  • Government should consider introducing legislation to ensure that all new domestic radio products that include DAB will be mandated to include DAB+ by the end of 2023
  • Government or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider working to simplify rules governing Terms and Conditions in radio ads to facilitate clearer messages for consumers

New Branding for BBC Radio Stations

The BBC has revealed new branding across all its products and platforms including Radio, BBC Sounds, TV and Online.

Television stations started the new branding today, and RadioToday has reported that radio stations will get brand new logos early next year.

Every station, from national and regional to local and spin-offs, will take the new uniformed branding which the BBC says will modernise the audience experience.

Kerris Bright, Chief Customer Officer, writes: “Our research tells us that audiences think some of our services look old-fashioned and out of date. They want a modern BBC that is easier to use and navigate to find the content they love and enjoy.