DAB Radio Switchover: Dead As The Dodo

In 2004, I wrote my first article predicting that the UK’s implementation of DAB digital radio was headed for failure. It was not guesswork. I had analysed radio industry data since 1980. I had worked  at The Radio Authority when it implemented DAB. I had worked  in Ofcom’s radio division. I had seen DAB from inside and outside the regulator and the commercial radio industry. Only five years after its launch, the available evidence demonstrated that DAB was headed for disaster in the UK.

I continued to write about DAB  –  in press articles, in analyst reports, in my blog, in my book ‘DAB Digital Radio: Licensed To Fail’  –  and to talk about DAB in radio and TV interviews. I did this not because I was ‘anti-DAB’ or a ‘campaigner’ (as some described me), but because my work as a media analyst requires me to carefully examine the facts and figures and to document their consequences. I had nothing to gain personally from stating evident truths.

Between 2004 and today, the UK radio industry could have scrutinised the growing collection of analyses that demonstrated DAB consumer take-up was failing. It could have taken firm, decisive action to transform DAB radio from failure to success. It chose not to. Instead, I found myself on the receiving end of abuse, slander and libel.

Two years ago, I stopped writing about UK radio in this blog because ‘Jimmy’s and ‘John’s were pasting my analyses into their press articles, blogs and corporate statements, uncredited and without permission. Those same people then e-mailed me to ask why I was no longer updating my blog!

I write today only to bookend this blog. In recent months, it has been interesting to witness some of my ‘critics’ make a 180-degree turn and suddenly herald the imminent non-event of DAB radio switchover, whilst citing my analyses (uncredited) in support of their newly adopted viewpoint.

I wrote about DAB because I consider that this single issue has contributed more to the decline of the UK radio industry than all other sector issues combined. Thousands of experienced radio professionals have lost their jobs. Hundreds of genuinely local radio stations have disappeared. Much radio in the UK has become a shadow of its former self. The medium is suffering rapidly declining appeal to those aged under 30. The industry that I have worked in since 1972 is on the rocks. Most of the blame for this sorry state of affairs can be laid directly at the UK radio industry’s single-minded pursuit of DAB since the 1990s, at the expense of all other objectives and at a cost of more than £1bn.

 

In 2011, I had been invited by the government’s Department of Culture, Media & Sport [DCMS] to participate in a consumer panel as part of its consultations about DAB switchover. Addressing an audience of industry stakeholders, I predicted that the government would kick the DAB radio switchover decision into the long grass in 2013. I made the same prediction in my presentation to the board of one of the UK’s largest commercial radio companies [see above].

After the close of the DCMS stakeholder session, its chairperson, a civil servant in the DAB radio switchover section, leaned over to me and said something along the lines of: “You really shouldn’t be writing the things you do. People don’t like it, you know, and it is making them angry.”

She is one of a select group of people in DCMS, Ofcom, Digital Radio UK, the BBC and RadioCentre who have earned their livings by pumping out factually incorrect reports supporting their fiction that DAB radio is a massive UK success story and that DAB switchover is inevitable. Public money and BBC Licence Fees have paid many of these people for years to mislead the public and the media about DAB radio.

Anyone with knowledge of the UK radio industry and training in statistics could have concluded from available data during the last decade that the implementation of DAB radio in the UK was headed for disaster. My analyses were not ‘rocket science’. What riled the army of DAB propagandists was that my published analyses directly contradicted their bullshit. The final e-mail sent to me by the chief executive of the Digital Radio Development Bureau (forerunner of Digital Radio UK) said:

“If you are going to deliberately mis-use the information we provide to you to construct as negative a view as possible with cheap shots like those below then we just won’t co-operate with you in the future.”

He saw only “cheap shots”, rather than evidential analysis, in my 2008 Q2 commercial radio sector report published by Enders Analysis, which had said:

“Although it remains the most popular platform for digital radio, ‘DAB’ usage seems to be steadfastly stuck at 9.0% of total commercial radio listening, dwarfed by the continued dominance of analogue radio (69.2%). Whilst 87% of households now have access to digital TV, and 67% have access to the internet, DAB penetration remained static at 27.3% in Q2 2008. Sales of DAB receivers have failed to continue the momentum demonstrated in Q1 2008, unit sales having slowed to 108,000 in June 2008, their lowest monthly level since June 2007. With sales of DAB receivers still concentrated mainly in the Christmas period, the imminent danger is that the hardware’s relatively high average ticket price, combined with the effects of the consumer ‘squeeze’, could impact the much needed winter 2008 sales peak (552,000 units sold in December 2007).

Despite the sterling efforts of the Digital Radio Working Group (convened by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport) over the past eight months, the radio industry, as yet, seems no closer to finding an immediate solution to the problem of slow DAB take-up than it was a year ago. Although all parties agree that it is ’content’ that will drive consumers to purchase DAB radios, the major radio groups have still not unveiled any plans to stimulate the consumer market with new digital radio brands.”

Five years on, the numbers may have changed but the unresolved problems with DAB radio remain exactly the same. My analyses and predictions during the last decade have proven correct … while a small army of DAB propagandists have been paid handsomely during that time to produce a massive volume of ‘South Sea bubble’ hot air about DAB radio, partly paid for from public funds. Doubtless they will be rewarded for their failure.

Footnote: find out more in these selected writings on DAB radio:
Channel 4: Radio Ambitions Aim Too HighEnders Analysis, July 2007
The Future Of Digital Radio: Is It DAB?Enders Analysis, January 2008 
Tuned Into The Future Of Radio, Broadcast, June 2008
Channel 4 Radio: Six Feet UnderEnders Analysis, October 2008 
In The Ditch With DAB Radio, The Register, December 2008
Digital Radio In The UK: Progress And ChallengesEBU 3rd Digital Radio Conference, June 2009
Germans And Swiss Snub DAB, The Register, London, July 2009
‘Digital Britain’ And The Radio Sectoregta Radio Newsletter no.16, November 2009
DAB Is Dead, Index On Censorship, June 2010
DAB Digital Radio: Licensed To Fail, Radio Books, October 2010

DAB Radio Downgrade: how is ‘90% of FM coverage’ a sensible target for DAB to replace FM?

“Makin’ a good t’ing bad!”

Moving the goalposts. Governments are adept at doing just that to help them achieve their targets or to make figures look better than they really are. Digital radio switchover is no exception. Given the technical and financial impossibility of the task plotted twenty years ago to completely replace analogue radio broadcasting with DAB radio, it has became necessary in recent months for the civil servants and digital radio lobbyists to move the goalposts.

In a blog in April 2011, I had outlined Ofcom’s latest ruse to deliberately plan to make DAB reception worse than existing FM reception for many radio listeners. Nevertheless, Ofcom will still declare this a victory for the technical superiority of the DAB platform.

The latest proposal under consideration is to make coverage of local DAB transmitters equivalent to 90% of existing FM coverage. On the one hand, this represents a belated admission that DAB radio cannot realistically achieve the same robust coverage as FM. On the other, it is a massive kick in the teeth to radio listeners – an attempt to purposefully replace something good (FM) with something worse (DAB). Madness!

A recent presentation by DAB lobbyist organisation Digital Radio UK invoked a new, vague “local digital coverage equivalent to 90%” criterion [see below]:

“90%” of what? The government’s Digital Britain report in June 2009 had fixed the digital radio switchover criteria as:
• “When 50% of listening is to digital; and
• When national DAB coverage is comparable to FM coverage, and local DAB reaches 90% of the population and all major roads.” [emphasis added]

There was never anything in Digital Britain about achieving “90% of existing FM coverage.” It was always “90% of the population.” The goalposts are being moved to make it easier for the government and DAB lobbyists to declare that DAB has achieved the criteria. Despite this outcome making the consumer experience of radio evidently worse.

We were told that one result of the Digital Radio Summit meeting on 31 March 2011 between government, regulator and the radio industry was:

“It is understood that it will cost around £20-30m to extend the local DAB signal to 90% of the FM signal in the UK…”

At a Westminster Media Forum conference on 5 April 2011, the topic of this newly created “90% of FM” criterion was raised by several speakers:

Jimmy Buckland, director of strategy, UTV Media: “There’s a DCMS [Department for Culture, Media & Sport] plan that’s been referred to today that’s currently on the table that would take local multiplexes to just 90% of what FM already delivers, with no commitment on major roads. If that plan’s agreed, it just about gets us to base camp.”

[…]

Neil Midgley, assistant media editor, The Daily Telegraph: “Now the briefing that we were getting last week was somewhere below £30 million for a build out to about 90% of current FM coverage. “

[…]

Daniel Nathan, director, Brighton & Hove Radio: “Just leading on from that, in Jimmy’s slide we saw the figure being an aspiration of ‘90% of the population’ and I was quite disturbed to hear that now that they are kind of moving away from ‘90% of the population’ to ‘90% FM coverage.’ When was that decided and by whom?”

[…]

Jimmy Buckland: “There were two different figures, there was originally a figure which was the criterion, at which point you would make a decision about switchover which was that the Government said that once we had ‘90% population coverage’ and ‘coverage of all major roads,’ you could make a decision and there were a couple of other criteria that go with that. The second figure which was ‘90% coverage of current FM’ for local DAB concerns what would be delivered by a proposal which is currently on the table. So to tie in with the previous point, what that £30 million delivers is a little bit more coverage at the local level, aggregated to 90% on a UK wide basis, so in some local markets it could be comfortably less than 90%, in other markets it could be higher and it doesn’t get you to the universality that you need for switchover.”

So, two questions remain unanswered:
• Who came up with the idea of ‘90% of FM coverage’ to be sneaked in as an easier criterion?
• Why are large parts of the radio industry (including RadioCentre and the BBC) not publicly campaigning against this ridiculous proposal intended to make reception of their radio stations on DAB WORSE for listeners than existing reception on FM?

It is hard not to conclude that the parties involved in this latest wheeze seem happy to treat the UK’s 46,727,000 radio listeners with utter contempt.

Q: Who is the government commissioning to produce an objective report on the costs & benefits of DAB radio switchover? A: The government

For two decades, the British government has pursued a policy to replace analogue radio broadcasting with DAB digital radio broadcasting. Why? The real reasons might as well be lost in the mists of time (or maybe were never made public). However, this has not stopped the government and its civil servants continuing to pursue the same digital radio switchover policy since the 1980s, despite overwhelming evidence that the surrounding media landscape has changed beyond recognition in the interim.

Because the government policy to replace AM and FM radio with DAB radio had never been decided on the basis of consumer demand, commercial necessity or global standards, it was unnecessary for officials to produce a document that justified it logically. When a government decides that a particular policy is necessary, it can make legislative change happen without recourse to the consumer market outside of Parliament or the Ministries. Politics and the real world do not inhabit the same space.

In the case of DAB radio switchover, the government made no effort to produce a cost/benefit analysis until 2008, when PricewaterhouseCoopers [PWC] was commissioned by Ofcom. However, the resulting 91-page report did not provide the solid, positive argument for DAB radio switchover that the government had desired. So the PWC report was hidden from the public for a year, eventually to be released and trivialised by civil servants [see my blog entry Feb 2010].


In contrast to the government’s unbridled enthusiasm for DAB, the PWC report felt that “the [radio] industry and consumers may fail to see the benefits of digital radio over the longer term.” It concluded that “there are relatively few up-sides to the estimates and several significant downside risks” from its cost/benefit analysis of DAB radio switchover [see my
blog entry Jul 2010].

The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, in a report on digital radio switchover in March 2010, expressed its dissatisfaction with the government’s attempt to bury the evidence from this PWC report:

“We strongly regret that the cost benefit analysis carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers was not published at the time it was delivered to Ofcom and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in February 2009.”

The government responded that “technical difficulties” had prevented the report’s publication for nearly a year. As excuses go, it would probably have been better for the government not to have responded at all.

After this embarrassing debacle over the PWC report, the government must have wanted to commission a further report that would conclude what PWC had not: that DAB radio switchover is a wonderful thing and that there are sensible economic arguments to justify forcing it upon the British public.

In June 2009, the government’s Digital Britain report promised: “We will conduct a full Impact Assessment, including a Cost/Benefit Analysis of Digital Radio Upgrade.”

In January 2010, Ofcom’s Peter Davies offered
evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee that another report would be done:

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: “What about your own impact assessment?”

Mr Davies: “We haven’t done an impact assessment yet.”

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: “But you have been asked to – correct?”

Mr Davies: “At some point in the future. I think the Digital Britain report said that we would be asked to do one, but we haven’t been asked to do one yet. Obviously we would need to do that and we would need a much fuller cost-benefit analysis before any final decision was taken.”

In June 2010, the government stated:

“We agree that a full impact assessment is an essential part of informing the Government’s decision on whether and when to move from a primarily analogue to a digital radio landscape. Work has already begun to collect the evidence needed to support an impact assessment and analysis should begin shortly.” [emphasis added]

Here we are now, in January 2011, and there remains no sign of the long promised cost/benefit analysis of DAB radio switchover, despite the new government continuing to pursue the digital radio switchover policy of the previous government. However, in December 2010, a document from the Department for Culture Media & Sport [DCMS] (marked “UNCLASSIFIED”) disclosed:

“The Government launched a joint Government and industry Digital Radio Action Plan on 8 July 2010. This Action Plan sets out the process for providing ministers with the information and assurances necessary to make a decision on whether and how to proceed with a Digital Radio Switchover. … Fundamental to the information provided to Government as part of the Action Plan will be a comprehensive Cost Benefit Analysis on the proposals for a digital switchover. … Government is conducting the modelling of the costs and benefits in-house. This research will provide robust evidence of potential costs and benefits to consumers of digital switchover to be incorporated into the Government’s Cost Benefit Analysis.”

So the government has confirmed that the government decision on digital radio switchover will be informed by a government cost/benefit analysis of digital radio switchover that utilises government modelling of the costs and benefits. It appears that, in the case of DAB radio switchover, the government has decided to be judge, jury and executioner too. This smacks more of ‘big brother’ than of the Conservatives’ much touted ‘big society.’

The unclassified DCMS document hinted that the earlier PWC report had not produced the desired results:

“A similar piece of work was carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008 to inform the work of the Digital Radio Working Group into the future of digital radio and the potential for switchover. That Cost Benefit Analysis raised a number of caveats, chief among which were the gaps in research into consumer behaviour and willingness to pay. Although the radio ecology has changed since that Cost Benefit Analysis was produced, the document provides useful insights and the recommendations made by PricewaterhouseCoopers on further research remain valid.”

So what will be in the government’s new cost/benefit analysis report? The latest version of the government’s Digital Radio Action Plan explained:

1.4 IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Carry-out an impact assessment of the options and timings of the Radio Switchover. This will include, but not limited to, the following:
*the costs and benefits of any interventions to enable the switching the migration of all national and large local radio stations to DAB and alternative uses for the analogue spectrum vacated after the Radio Switchover;
* the rural impact of implementing the Digital Radio Switchover;
* Impact on energy consumption of a Switchover; and
* Environmental impact of analogue receiver disposal following Switchover.”

Interesting to see that neither the ‘consumer’ nor the ‘listener’ are mentioned here. For this workstream, the “first report to Ministers” is not scheduled until Q4 2011. It is evident that there is little urgency to execute this new cost/benefit analysis or for it to make a significant contribution at this juncture to any government re-evaluation as to whether to proceed with DAB radio switchover. If a cost/benefit analysis were a genuine priority, why was:
* the PWC report buried in February 2009 for a year;
* a new cost/benefit analysis promised by Digital Britain in June 2009 but not prioritised subsequently;
* the government saying in June 2010 that “work should begin shortly” on the analysis;
* a “first report” of this work now not scheduled to be presented until Q4 2011?

If the government’s DAB radio switchover policy were but a minor issue within the DCMS Ministry, all this deceit, delay and manipulation might be considered trivial. It is not. In December 2010, Minister Ed Vaizey admitted that he receives more correspondence from angry consumers about DAB radio than about any other issue within his portfolio.

So why are we witnessing such a continued lack of government transparency on the DAB radio switchover issue, despite prime minister David Cameron’s commitment in November 2010 to make the UK “the most open and transparent government in the world”?

Shameless Book Plug

Apologies for the interruption to my normal radio sector analyses, but I wanted to let you know that a book of my writings about DAB radio was published this week. It collects together 99 of the essays that have appeared in this blog over the last two years concerning the digital radio switchover issue in the UK. The period between 2008 and 2010 was a critical ‘make or break’ time for DAB which ended with the legislation of the Digital Economy Act. But have any of the committees, consultations, working groups, reports and recommendations from this period made any difference to the slowing take-up of DAB in the UK? No.

Leslie Burrage, chief executive of Roberts Radio, one of the main UK manufacturers of radio receivers, said recently:

“I’ve been surprised by how many of my peers at the golf club have adopted internet radio and some of those are people who can’t even get a decent FM signal, never mind DAB. The key issue with DAB and the migration to FM is going to be dictated by the speed at which at the motor car can be migrated, and there is no easy solution. If the migrations takes 20 or 25 years to go as it did from FM, the future is just possibly wi-fi.”

Digital radio switchover seems doomed and the only people still talking it up are those who have a direct stake in it, either through their financial investments, or from earning their living from talking it up. Because the UK started on the DAB switchover trail earlier than other European countries, our experiences have relevance to markets that started later on the DAB journey.

This week, it has been interesting to see the interest my book has spurred in markets such as Norway, Denmark and Italy where, like the UK, DAB is still being pursued despite widespread consumer indifference. In Norway, a news story about the local receiver market appeared in the newspaper Aftenposten headlined ‘Customers do not want DAB: FM is still selling like hotcakes’. The buyer at a Norwegian electronics store said that DAB was already a flop and he was quoted: “So far, this year, according to industry sales statistics to which I have access, only one DAB radio has been sold for in-car installation”.

Many countries are awaiting some kind of government decision as to whether digital radio switchover will still be a policy goal. In Norway, a government report on the DAB issue is to be published later this year. In France, a government report on the financial model for digital radio was meant to have been unveiled this week, but was not. In Germany, the 21 September deadline by which state and commercial radio was meant to have submitted a joint plan for government funding to re-launch a national DAB+ multiplex passed without agreement and has had to be extended to 15 December 2010. One German
report said “it is highly doubtful whether the negotiating parties will agree by the [new] deadline.” Another report said: “experts suspect that this is the last chance for DAB+.”

In Italy, radio stations that have started broadcasting in DAB and DRM are angry at the lack of digital radio receivers in their shops and have
turned to UK manufacturer Pure Digital for help. One Italian report asked: “Do people feel the need to replace their old FM radios? Especially in the era of the smartphone, internet radio and applications, the answer seems obvious.” In Spain, the existing DAB radio licences that were initially issued for a ten-year period in 2000 have just been extended to fifteen years, in the face of widespread consumer apathy towards DAB radio.

It is evident that the digital radio switchover issue continues to generate a lively debate in many European countries. My hope is that our experience in the UK can help other countries make an informed decision about the adoption of a realistic plan for ‘the future of radio’ in their own markets.

DAB DIGITAL RADIO: LICENSED TO FAIL
GRANT GODDARD
Radio Books, London
ISBN 978 0 9564963 0 0
paperback 297×210 mm, 314 pages
1 October 2010
book excerpts here
more information http://www.radiobooks.org
available from online book retailers including Amazon

Book plug over.

Lies, damned lies and … Ofcom’s first digital radio progress report

Ofcom quietly published its first Digital Radio Progress Report in July 2010, without fanfare or a press release. This report has been a remarkably long time coming, given that DAB radio has been with us more than a decade. During that time, Ofcom has published 26 Digital Television Progress Reports, starting in 2003.

Here was an opportunity for Ofcom to demonstrate that it is acting in the public interest by publishing solid, objective data about the progress of digital radio in the UK. Did it take that opportunity? No. Instead, Ofcom published a set of data that are so selective and so distorted that they misrepresent the progress (or lack of it) made to date in advancing the UK towards the ‘digital radio switchover’ that our government is determined to execute. Why? Because Ofcom (like the government’s DCMS department) seems determined to persuade us that its totally unrealistic plan for DAB radio has not been an unmitigated disaster with the citizen/consumers on whose behalf it is supposed to be working.

It might appear pedantic to pick over the details of data represented in this feeble 24-page Ofcom report. However, it must be stressed that this is no nitpicking exercise. The Digital Economy Act 2010 insists that this very document submitted by Ofcom (and another by the BBC) to the government will decide whether the UK will progress to ‘digital radio switchover’. It is these data that will decide whether we can continue to receive BBC network radio stations on the 100 million analogue radios that are out there. It is these data that could mean we have to replace perfectly satisfactory analogue radio receivers in every household across the country, at a cost of millions to consumers.

To note the issues in the order they appear in the Ofcom report:

FIGURE 1:
This Ofcom graph purports to show that:
* Digital platforms’ share of radio listening increased from 12.8% to 24.0% between 2007 and 2010 (this is TRUE);
* Analogue platforms’ share of listening decreased from 87.2% to 76.0% between 2007 and 2010 (this is FALSE).

The four figures cited in Figure 1 for the analogue platform – 87.2% in 2007, 82.2% in 2008, 79.9% in 2009 and 76.0% in 2010 – are an Ofcom invention. These false data seek to demonstrate that a rapid decline in analogue listening has taken place. This is not true. As the graph below shows, analogue listening has remained remarkably static over this timeframe.

The situation is complicated by two facts: a significant proportion of radio listening remains ‘unspecified’ by respondents in RAJAR listening surveys, and that this proportion has varied greatly in size in different surveys. However, this does not detract from the falsehood of Ofcom’s attempt to demonstrate that analogue listening is in sharp decline.

FIGURE 2:
This Ofcom graph purports to show that:
* 54% of 15-24 year olds use digital radio;
* 57% of 25-34 year olds use digital radio;
* 56% of 55-64 year olds use digital radio;
* 46% of 65-74 year olds use digital radio;
* 29% of 75+ year olds use digital radio.

In fact, the fine print explains that Ofcom had asked the question ‘Have you ever used digital radio?’ This ensured that the results were almost meaningless because they tell us nothing whatsoever about current usage of digital radio. For example, a 68-year old who, on a single occasion ten years ago, had listened to digital radio for 10 minutes will have answered ‘yes’, despite having made no further usage during the last decade.

Ofcom’s objective here seems to have been to highlight the large size of the resulting numbers, without indicating that they derive from an almost useless question (garbage in, garbage out). If you were to ask people ‘Have you ever bought a banana?’, almost 100% would respond ‘yes’. Their answers tell you absolutely nothing about the current market for bananas. Exactly the same is true of digital radio usage. In this context, the resulting numbers seem remarkably low because only half the population has ever tried digital radio (even once in their lifetime).

FIGURE 3:
This Ofcom graph purports to show that:
* 53% of adults use digital radio;
* 63% of adults in socio-economic groups AB use digital radio;
* 55% of adults in socio-economic group C1 use digital radio;
* 48% of adults in socio-economic group C2 use digital radio;
* 42% of adults in socio-economic groups DE use digital radio.

Just as in Figure 2, the fine print explains that Ofcom had asked the question ‘Have you ever used digital radio? The same issues apply here as with Figure 2.

FIGURE 5:
This Ofcom graph shows digital platforms’ share of total radio listening, but the data omit:
* A comparison with the analogue platform;
* A time sequence to show how fast the market is changing.

The following graph demonstrates the slow growth of digital platforms and their low level in comparison with analogue. It also demonstrates that a proportion of the growth in digital platform usage is the result of a statistical technicality caused by a reduction of ‘unspecified’ listening in recent quarters.

The following graph demonstrates the slow growth of individual digital platforms since 2007, using the same scale as applied in the preceding graph.

FIGURE 8:
This Ofcom graph purports to show that:
* “five digital-only services generated a weekly reach of 1 million+ listeners in Q1 2010.”

However, the fine print explains that the Ofcom data refer to “all listeners [aged] 4+”, whereas the radio industry’s standard metric is and always has been ‘adults 15+’. Indeed, all RAJAR audience data used in this same Ofcom report refer to ‘adults 15+’, except for Figure 8.

Once the graph is re-worked using ’15+’ instead of ‘4+’ data (see above), it is evident that:
* Only three digital-only radio stations generate a weekly reach of 1million+ adult listeners;
* BBC World Service was included in the Ofcom graph (and was one of the five stations cited as exceeding 1m weekly reach) even though it is not digital-only, being available across a large part of the UK on 648AM;
* BBC Asian Network was omitted from the Ofcom graph (also available on analogue but limited to the Midlands);
* Not only are Panjab Radio and NME Radio no longer available on the national DAB platform (as the Ofcom text notes), but Q Radio is no longer on DAB, and the BBC has proposed the closure of Asian Network;
* These weekly reach data for digital-only stations should be considered in the context of analogue radio stations – for example, BBC Radio 2 has a weekly adult reach of 14.6million.

FIGURE 9:
This Ofcom graph purports to show that:
* Digital radio’s current share of listening is “broadly in line with the organic growth outlined on the [government’s] forecast chart.”

Bizarrely, the Ofcom graph displays the government forecasts but has omitted the historical data that would show how successfully the forecast has been achieved to date.

The forecast published in June 2009 predicted that, by year-end 2009 (a mere six months later), digital platforms would account for 24% or 26%, the latter the result of a concerted ‘drive to digital.’ In fact, the year-end figure was 21%. The likely reason that Ofcom has failed to include the historical data is that neither of the two forecasts (‘organic growth’ or the ‘drive to digital’) has any chance of being realised. If the current growth rate is extrapolated, the 50% criterion will be reached by year-end 2018, and certainly not by either 2013 or 2015, as the forecast (credited to Value Partners) predicted.

FIGURE 14:
This Ofcom graph and accompanying text assert that:
* “DAB sets made up over a fifth (21%) of all radio sales by volume” in the year to Q1 2010;
* “In the portable market, DAB sets accounted for 65% of sales.”

However, Ofcom omitted to point out that:
* Fewer DAB radios had been sold in 2009 than in 2008;
* DAB radios were a lower proportion of total radios sold in 2009 than in 2008;
* Its reference to “the portable market” is limited strictly to ‘portable radios’ of the type used in kitchens. There is not a single mobile phone on sale in the UK that includes DAB radio, and the vast majority of portable media players that include radio do not have DAB radio.

In fact, the data in the graph above demonstrate that:
* DAB radio receiver sales volumes peaked in 2007/8 at 2.2million per annum and have declined 13% since then to 1.9million per annum;
* Analogue radios contributed a greater proportion of total radio receiver sales in 2009 (79%) than they had in 2008 (78%);
* DAB has not invigorated the market for radios, with fewer radios sold now than ever, perhaps due to evident consumer confusion about ‘digital radio switchover’.

FIGURE 17:
The Ofcom graph shows that:
* 17% of adults say they are likely to buy a DAB radio in the next 12 months.

However, the Ofcom graph does not offer a historical perspective. The graph above demonstrates that the propensity to purchase a DAB radio has diminished over time. In 2006, 17% of respondents said they would be likely to buy a DAB radio within the next six months. In 2010, 17% said they would be likely to buy a DAB radio within the next 12 months. This would translate into a significant reduction in DAB radio receiver sales. Additionally, the proportion of respondents who say they do not know if they will purchase a DAB radio continues to increase over time, perhaps a further symptom of market confusion or DAB indifference.
————
Given that Ofcom has had the luxury of several years to prepare this first Digital Radio Progress Report, the result is a travesty. It should not be the regulator’s role to selectively highlight and distort data that support its own policies in a document specifically requested by government in order to inform a parliamentary decision on digital radio switchover. We deserve better from our public servants. Otherwise, they might as well go and work for Digital Radio UK, the lobby group (funded by commercial interests and the BBC) busy pumping out propaganda to try and persuade consumers that they need DAB radio.

On page 5 of this first Digital Radio Progress Report, Ofcom notes:

“Our principal general duty, when carrying out our radio functions, is … to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters.”

Exactly how are citizens’ interests being furthered by Ofcom distorting the facts about digital radio take-up?

Labour MP says government’s analogue radio switch-off “is absolutely potty”

House of Commons
18 January 2010
Oral Answers to Questions

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Labour): My understanding is that the Government currently propose that analogue radio be switched off in 2013. If that is the case, it is absolutely potty. Will the Government reconsider?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Siôn Simon): My hon. Friend is, for once, slightly wrong on the detail. The policy is that we move to digital in 2015, but not that analogue radio be switched off. Most big radio stations will move to digital, but smaller commercial and community radio stations will stay on FM and will be, as I have said, on the same dial as the big digital stations.

House of Commons
18 January 2010
Written Answers to Questions

Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Conservative): To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport with reference to the answer to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire of 23 June 2009, Official Report, column 768W, on motorways, what assessment he has made of the effects on the level of motorway congestion of the DAB radio service Traffic Radio since its introduction.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport (Chris Mole, Ipswich) (Labour): Traffic Radio is one of a suite of Highways Agency information services designed to provide road users with access to the very latest traffic information.
Research has shown that awareness and usage of information services can influence levels of motorway congestion. It is not possible to directly correlate the impact of Traffic Radio to motorway congestion due to the complexity of assessing one information service in isolation from the others. In addition, information is only one of a series of measures that can contribute towards congestion reduction.
The Highways Agency is undertaking a piece of research to evaluate whether the anticipated benefits of Traffic Radio, as outlined in its original specification, have been realised. This work is due to be completed by April 2010 and will be supplemented by information from the agency’s annual Measuring Improvements in Network Information Services survey.