Former GCap boss still not convinced by digital radio switchover

By | Published on Wednesday 14 November 2012

Fru Hazlitt

Elsewhere at the Radio Festival, the former boss of Virgin Radio and (briefly) GCap, Fru Hazlitt, now MD Of Commercial And Online at ITV, offered some more thoughts on digital radio, and the continued bid by many in the industry to shift most services from FM to the digital audio broadcasting network at some point in the near future, requiring customers to buy DAB devices.

During her short tenure at GCap, before its 2008 acquisition by Global Radio, Hazlitt pulled the radio firm out of the Digital One national DAB network venture and canned the group’s digital-only services, basically concluding that DAB was doomed because of poor consumer uptake, and the growth of other digital platforms (TV-based radio and the internet).

At the time much of the radio industry seemed to be wavering on DAB, despite the big investments most had already made into the new technology, though more recently most of the bigger radio firms have reaffirmed their support for the digital network and their desire to see it ultimately replace FM, certainly for mainstream radio services.

Just last week Digital Radio UK announced a new marketing campaign to push DAB. But Hazlitt told the Radio Festival that the public wouldn’t be persuaded to switch to a new technology just for the sake of it. According to The Guardian, Hazlitt remarked: “You ask the consumer in the street how they receive television or radio, they don’t know, they just want the content they like”.

In her ITV guise, Hazlitt argued that the switchover from analogue to digital TV worked because people recognised the value of the extra channels they got with Freeview over the five-channel analogue service, plus the new technology was bundled into nice, sleek-looking tellies that consumers aspired to own. Just attaching the word “digital” to the service was not enough, because “so much is digital now. I have a thing about using the word digital. I think it’s complete bollocks”.

She concluded: “When you talk about one technology or another, all you have to think is, does it enable the consumer to go ‘wow, I want that’ or do you have to ram it down their throats? Because if you do, it’s stuffed”.