Minister pegs 2015 for FM radio switch-off

But "can't impose on an unwilling public"

Government tentatively supports digital radio industry s plans to switch off FM and AM radio signals by 2015

UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey is set to make a speech this week backing the digital radio industry's aims to turn AM and FM radio signals off and transition to digital radio.

Vaizey is set to declare the government's support for Britain's digital radio industry, and to reiterate that 2015 – the date suggested by the previous government for the analogue radio signal to be switched off – will remain a target.

Tentative move

However, this is still very much a tentative move on behalf of the government. Vaizey is also set to stress that new technology cannot be imposed "on an unwilling public, no matter how persuasive the business case.

"Listeners need to be persuaded that the content on offer is compelling, that the quality is high and that digital radios, at home or in the car, are affordable and have listening quality that is at least as good as FM."

Vaizey sees digital radio as "a huge opportunity" and wants to back the industry's plans to push towards an analogue-to-digital switchover. However the government will not be drawn on making a firm decision on the matter until at least half of British radio listeners have moved to using digital radios.

Industry body Rajar shows that, in March 2010, 24 per cent of all radio listening was digital (up slightly from 20 per cent in 2009), compared with 66 per cent on AM or FM radio. So there is still some way to go for digital radio to hit that 50 per cent 'trigger' point.

British success stories

Mr Vaizey will praise British industry in his speech, noting: "At a time when we are looking for manufacturing success stories, British companies like Pure, Roberts and Bush are world leaders. And the technology offers radio lovers the same explosion of choice that TV viewers have embraced so wholeheartedly."

Ford Ennals, Chief Executive of industry lobbying group Digital Radio UK, welcomes the latest moves by the government and the publication of the Joint Industry and Government Action Plan, saying: "It gives us the certainty we need that radio has a digital future. The focus on consumers, coverage and cars is vital."

The BBC's Director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie, BBC, says of the plans: "We welcome the Government's commitment to radio's digital future and the importance they have placed on the listener in any future switchover. The BBC will, along with Digital Radio UK, work closely with Government and the rest of the radio sector to deliver the Action Plan."