Digital Radio Switchover

Our good friends at have been working on a very special blog post about DAB Digital Radio, we wanted to share their research with you as it is awesome.

With the popularity of DAB digital radio constantly increasing, both at home and on the go, Sam Bonham, Technology Development Manager at Digital Radio UK, agreed to an interview about it all.

What does digital radio offer the listener that analogue doesn’t?

  • More content (the stations you have now, and digital-only stations)
  • Ease of use (find your station at the touch of a button, with track and artist information on screen)
  • Digital quality sound (hiss and crackle free)
  • Better digital functionality

Ed Vaizey has confirmed that significant progress has been made in the transition to digital radio in the UK. How is this so?

The UK is making progress on all fronts including coverage, cars and content.


Over 94% of the UK population is within national DAB coverage and the BBC has made a commitment to cover all major roads and motorways by 2015. Local coverage improvements are also being made all the time. Industry has just launched local services in North East Wales and Leeds for example, bringing local DAB digital radio to listeners for the first time.


The latest CAP/SMMT data was out last week and showed that the proportion of new cars with DAB as standard registered in a month has risen to 40.1% in July, up from 39.4% in June (CAP/SMMT July 2013). The year-on-year growth for the proportion of new cars with DAB as standard is now 61.7%, rising from 24.8% in July 2012 (see chart below for year-on-year growth). This is driven by Ford, VW, BMW, Mercedes and Toyota having moved the majority of their new cars to having digital as standard.


In terms of content, digital radio offers listeners, on average, twice as many stations as analogue. Digital-only station BBC 6 Music remains the leading digital–only station with a year on year increase in listeners of 30%, to 1.8 million. BBC 6 Music has now overtaken BBC Radio 3 in listening hours with 15% more listening hours than the classical music station. BBC digital-only stations Radio 4 Extra (1.6 million), BBC Radio 1 Xtra (1.1 million) and Radio 5 live Sports Extra (950,000) all grew strongly.

And for the commercial stations, Absolute 80s is now the leading commercial digital-only radio station with a record 1.2 million listeners, a growth of 36% year on year, and Absolute Radio showed strong growth across its decade stations (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s). Bauer’s recent acquisition Planet Rock’s listening figures are now combined with sister station Kerrang! and showed 1.1 million digital listeners. Jazz FM achieved new record numbers with listeners growing 32% to 758k year on year. Smooth 70s bounced back strongly with a 7% quarter on quarter on growth to a total of 730k listeners.

Are you seeing more listeners switch to digital over time? Do you feel that this has been helped by the TV switchover?

  • Digital listening has now reached 36.8%, up 16% year on year
  • 52.5% of the population now tunes in via a digital platform each week
  • 45.7% of the population now has a DAB set at home, or 24 million adults
  • Analogue listening at home fell below 50% for the first time
  • Analogue listening fell below 50% for the first time among 15-24-year-olds
  • DAB now 24% of all listening, up 18% year on year
  • Listening to online radio/apps now 6% (up 31% year on year), overtaking DTV listening

Television switchover means that nearly every household in the UK now has a digital radio – in the form of their digital television. It also means that consumers are aware of the process, understand the benefits of digital – more choice, quality and additional functionality – and they appreciate that the future is digital.

Are you finding that the radio industry is keen for a digital future?

All broadcasters support a digital future for radio – over a third of radio listening is now via digital platforms and over 17 million digital radio sets have been sold.

The consumer/listener will be at the heart of all considerations around Digital Radio Switchover and there is a clear Action Plan to create the conditions needed for a switchover – Government, commercial radio, manufacturers and the BBC are working together to deliver this.

FM will not be switched off – it will continue for as long as it is needed for community and local radio stations but it is full and has already reached the limits of its capabilities. If it were to be retained on its current scale the national FM infrastructure would need a significant investment to maintain it. Maintaining two transmission systems does not represent good value for BBC license fee payers, and is an unreasonable cost burden on commercial radio.

Do you have any advice for listeners on how to switch your car radio to digital without having to buy an expensive new one?

Consumers are able to get DAB digital radio in existing vehicles, in the form of an aftermarket adapter solution.

There are several digital radio aftermarket adapter device-types currently available on the market:

  • Self-fit adapters – Prices start from around £50, excluding fitting. There are also in-store fitted options from £100.
  • Integrated adapters – Prices start from around £150, excluding fitting.
  • Semi-integrated adapters – Prices start from about £170, excluding fitting.
  • DIN solutions (single/double) – Prices start from around £70, excluding fitting.

Preparing the supply chain is an important part of the Digital Radio Action Plan and implicit within this is the need to develop affordable and effective adapters. For currently available digital radio adapters, please visit:

Drivers wanting to adapt their existing car to digital radio can purchase an in-vehicle digital radio adapter from local independent in-vehicle aftermarket retailers or a range of franchise garages (including Ford, Vauxhall, VW and BMW). Please ask in store for details on which product is suitable for your vehicle.

How long do we expect it to be before the switchover comes into place?

The Digital Economy Act 2010 gave the Secretary of State the flexibility to set a date for digital radio switchover. Before a date can be set, two criteria need to be met:

  • 50% of listening must be on digital platforms.
  • Digital coverage for national services must be comparable to FM and local DAB availability must reach 90% of the population and major roads.

Source: and Sam Bonham, Digital Radio UK - 17 Sept 2013