Wednesday, October 20
BroadcastingCulture minister Ed Vaizey has reportedly called on the BBC to underwrite the cost of rolling out the UK's digital audio broadcasting (DAB) network.
In an interview yesterday with Jeremy Vine at the Radio Festival in Manchester, the minister said that he expects the corporation to be "matriarch or patriarch" to the digital radio switchover.
The coalition government wants to expand the DAB transmitter network so that it matches the coverage currently provided by analogue FM, a vital component for the digital switchover to go ahead.
"There are a whole range of different factors - cheap digital radios, more cars having DAB fitted as standard, but coverage is also crucial," Vaizey said.
"My message to our radio family as it were is that the matriarch or the patriarch in this debate is the BBC. The BBC has to work with me to increase transmitter coverage for digital radio, that is a very important part.
"Coverage is patchy and that's why it's so important to get the network out. I'm talking with the BBC and we are working together. I hope to accelerate the process of digital radio coverage in terms of transmitters and masts."
Vaizey's comments follow Global Radio founder Ashley Tabor's recent calls for the BBC to "put their money where their mouth is" by investing in the digital radio infrastructure to boost the switchover drive.
The government has made a loose commitment for the switchover to go ahead by 2015, but that will only happen if digital platforms account for 50% of all listening by 2013 or DAB coverage is comparable with FM.
The BBC will need to bear the up to £150m cost of expanding the DAB network, but that comes amid major cutbacks and uncertainty over the corporation's future funding.
Yesterday, it emerged that the BBC has agreed a deal that will see its licence fee frozen for six years. It will also have to bear the cost of funding BBC World Service and Welsh-language channel S4C from 2015.
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