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UK Nears Threshold for Switch to Digital Audio Broadcasts

Move to end FM may come soon

January 10, 2017 | Media & Entertainment

Last week, Norway set plans to shut off its FM radio network, meaning the country will be the first to totally abandon FM transmissions for Digital Audio Broadcasts (DAB). But though Norway is the first country to do so wholesale, it is hardly the only country that is considering the move. In the UK, the switch from FM to DAB might be coming soon.

UK Weekly Radio Reach and Listening Share, by Platform, Q3 2016 (% of population and % of total)

UK government officials say the switch from FM to DAB won't happen until digital listening hits 50% of total radio listening and DAB is as widely available as FM. By some measures, those threshholds are quite close.

An October 2016 report from Radio Joint Audience Research Limited (RAJAR) found that 45.5% of UK radio listening was via digital broadcasts That figure includes internet-based radio and digital-television radio as well as DAB. DAB made up 32.3% of listening share.

In terms of penetration levels for the population as a whole, AM/FM radio is still far more widely used than DAB, the RAJAR report found. Nearly three-quarters of the population listened to traditional radio, compared with 44.8% who listened to DAB.

Nevertheless, if listening patterns continue to change at roughly their current pace, that could mean the trigger would occur in 2018, which in turn would mean phasing out FM in 2020, the BBC reported.

—Ben Clague

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