UK FM shutoff to be delayed until 2030

The Digital Radio and audio review just completed by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, has recommended against a shutdown of the FM network until at least 2030.

Radio stations have been urged to look at the expansion of DAB+ during the intervening years, with a further review to take place in 2026.

The expansion of the 5G network is also seen as critical for radio’s coverage with around a quarter (24%) of radio listening takes place in the car and over 65% of people listen to a radio service in a car every week.

The report cautions that as drivers across the UK are increasingly using their smartphone to connect to music streaming content and connected cars are bringing more competition to radio with a choice of apps and voice control, this shift in both consumer behaviour and device technology has the potential to marginalise or exclude radio services from the digital car dashboard.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including that

  • The government to consider introducing legislation to ensure that all new domestic radio products that include DAB will be mandated to include DAB+ by the end of 2023.
  • Government and industry to review introducing legislation to mandate all domestic radio receivers to include DAB+ in 2026.
  • The government to consider the position on mandating DAB/DAB+ in commercial vehicles in the light of any changes to the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) or, if none, consider independently of the EECC, no later than 2023.
  • There be support for hybrid radio to keep radio robust and prominent and delivering deeper engagement to the listener including the provision of richer metadata from broadcasters; and support for a coherent strategy for soft and hard service linking which can be easily implemented by the car makers.

Other interesting recommendations include that the government

  • Consider regulatory changes to ensure radio stations and radio and audio content can be easily found and is discoverable by users of voice assistant platforms, including smart speakers and in-car infotainment systems.
  • Consider extending support for the growing community radio sector – for example by expanding the Community Radio Fund.