A quarter of all radio listening digital, but is 2015 FM switchover still overly optimistic?

By | Published on Thursday 3 February 2011


So the RAJARS are out, and most radio groups seem to have at least one bit of genuinely good news to pull out of their latest listening figures (Bauer in particular, Absolute slightly less so) which is no fun at all. Even the dudes peddling the digital future of radio got some good news, a quarter of all radio listening is now done via digital platforms rather than boring old FM. Actually, the increase is a mere 0.2%, but with the expected post-Christmas boost in digital listening not shown here, the digital lobby will still consider that good news. Though, of course, that stat is thanks to the bundling of web and through-your-telly listening under the digital banner. Listening via DAB – the digital version of FM – is up, but still lagging at 15.8%.

But the boss of Digital Radio UK, Ford Ennals, was happy nevertheless, telling reporters: “The achievements of 25% of listening to digital platforms, and nearly 45% of listeners listening to digital each week, represent key milestones as digital radio moves into the mainstream of UK radio listening. Following a strong start to 2011 we look forward to seeing the Q1 listening figures in May, when we will see the benefit of listening to the 750,000 digital radios which were sold in the last quarter of 2010”.

But does digital – and DAB in particular – have any chance of reaching a big enough audience by 2015 to allow the planned decommissioning of the FM network. As much previously reported, Digital Radio UK, the Beeb and some big commercial players hope so, but many remain unconvinced.

Including the Sales & Marketing Director of one of the companies that makes DAB radios, Roberts Radio. According to the Telegraph, he says: “Digital is no doubt the future of radio and we support this fully and completely, but we still strongly feel, as we have from the beginning, that we should not try to force the issue onto the consumer and that we should look at ways of getting our industry into a ‘digital ready state’, responsibly and honestly, regardless of how long it takes. We would do well to remember that following the launch of FM, it took over 20 years to become the mainstream format that we know and love today”.