Calls for switchover plan as digital radio listening tops 50%

The majority of radio listening is now digital, according to the latest Rajar figures.

Hailed as a landmark moment for the UK radio industry, data for the first three months of the year showed that digital listening had reached a new record share of 50.9 per cent – up from 47.2 per cent a year ago.

This is the first time that listening to digital has been greater than the analogue FM and AM platforms.

With the 50 per cent digital switchover threshold now met, it is anticipated that the Government will undertake a review to assess digital radio progress and determine the next steps in due course.

Speaking at the Tuning In commercial radio conference this week, Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries, said: “The 50 per cent share will be an important milestone for radio.” She also confirmed that the Government will “work closely with all partners – the BBC, commercial radio, Arqiva, car manufacturers and listeners – and, subject to this, will make some further announcements”.

Commented Ford Ennals (pictured above), chief executive of Digital Radio UK: “This is a landmark moment for the radio industry and for listeners alike. Digital platforms now account for the majority of all radio listening for the first time. The digital transition is good news for radio and is helping our industry compete more effectively in a digital age. We look forward to continuing to work with broadcasters, the supply chain and Government on delivering radio’s digital future and the upcoming digital radio review.”

Paul Smith
Paul Smith, CEO, Pure

In light of the latest figures, Paul Smith, chief executive of digital radio manufacturer Pure, urged the Government to commit to a clear plan for switchover: “Whether it’s broadcasters, manufacturers or retailers, it’s clear that the entire radio industry needs to be ready for change.

“Delaying a switchover will only see the UK fall further behind other European nations, potentially killing off live radio as it faces growing competition from streaming services. It’s time for the Government and the industry to stand up and show full commitment to a digital future. Failure to do so would result in a major blow to the legacy of British radio.”

According to the Rajar data, overall, digital listening hours grew by 7.8 per cent compared with Q1 2017. The greatest amount of digital listening takes place on DAB radio, which now accounts for 36.8 per cent of all listening and 72.2 per cent of digital listening, with hourly growth of 8.9 per cent year on year.

Online and apps now account for 9.3 per cent of all listening and 18.3 per cent of digital listening, with the greatest percentage hourly growth of 17 per cent. Listening on digital TV accounts for 4.8 per cent of all listening and 9.4 per cent of digital listening.

According to the latest figures, 63.7 per cent of adults now have access to DAB digital radio at home, and millions more are listening via the expanding range of smart and voice-controlled speakers. Additionally, digital radio is in more than 11 million cars on the road, equating to 33 per cent of all cars in the UK. Ninety per cent of all new cars registered have digital radio fitted as standard.

This growth in availability has been matched by an expansion of national and local DAB coverage, which is now available in more than 90 per cent of the UK, due to the launch of an additional 435 digital transmitters, as part of a programme of work supported by the Government and broadcasters.