Minister urges radio suppliers to ‘go digital’

The Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock, has called on suppliers to make radios “digital by default”.

Speaking at the Drive to Digital 2017 conference today, which was organised by Digital Radio UK, Mr Hancock (pictured) said that analogue-only radios had a “time limit” because there will be a digital switchover at some point.

Currently, the majority of digital radios sold are analogue-only, according to data from GfK.

However, the minister emphasised that digital radios would last listeners into the future as they wouldn’t be subjected to this time limit.

Digital listening recently hit 48.7 per cent, according to Rajar Q2 data. Mr Hancock confirmed that it is not until digital listening hits 50 per cent will the Government consider whether to set a timetable for switchover.

The minister said he didn’t want to see consumers left in the lurch. “We’ve got to bring people with us on switchover, so that everybody has the chance to move onto the new technology,” he said.

“It’s brilliant that radio continues to go from strength to strength and a large part of that is due to how it has kept moving technologically. The transition to digital is essential for radio’s future and we strongly encourage all manufacturers to ensure they are delivering digitally-enabled product to their customers.”

The minister’s calls were echoed by techUK chief executive Julian David and John Lewis audio and connected home senior buyer Katrina Mills.

Ms Mills confirmed that retail giant John Lewis was planning to “phase out” the sale of analogue portable radios in stores and online.

Ms Mills commented: “We know that our customers are tech-savvy and early adopters of all technological innovations. This being the case, it makes sense for us to ensure we are exclusively presenting them with radios that are digitally enabled and begin to phase out the sale of analogue-only portable radios.”

Mr David said: “We welcome the minister’s support of digitally-enabled devices, and know that it is something that many of our members would be keen to deliver particularly with the reassurance of a timetable for a proposed transition to digital.”

Ford Ennals, chief executive of Digital Radio UK, concluded: “We welcome the comments of the Digital Minister and of techUK about the importance of selling digital-enabled radios at retail. In a world where radio listening is transitioning to digital and where all digital radios have FM capability, it makes no sense for retailers to continue to sell analogue radios that have a time limit and can’t receive the majority of available stations.”