Tony Lloyd MP Manchester Central
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
23 March 2010 @ Imperial War Museum North
One of the commitments that the government has already made is the switchover to digital [radio]. That will go ahead, although it will go ahead dictated by the pace of change that the markets themselves will involve. You know the ground rules for that. I was talking to a multimedia producer who just tells me she can’t get digital radio in her own home. Now this is still one of the big issues because, until we have got 90% coverage of the country and until we see something along the lines of 50% of people using digital, that switchover won’t take place. But all the evidence is that we are still on track for that switchover to take place by 2015.
The second debate within that is how is that paid for, how far will the commercial sector – the commercial radio stations – be prepared to pay to invest in the digital networks and how far will the BBC contribute? Because what is clear is that there always will be a role for the BBC to fund because there will be parts of the country where the commercial sector simply won’t take that process forward.
We know that the analogue [radio transmission] system, even if we do nothing at all to maintain it, will require investment of the order of £200m simply to keep the existing networks up and running and that money frankly is better spent on the switchover to digital and, of course, there will be consequential changes in terms of the licensing framework at the point of switchover.
This government, the Labour government, once re-elected, probably on May 6th ….