Some of the largest and most influential UK radio operators have joined a campaign opposing the upcoming mandatory digital switchover.
The change would force major broadcasters to migrate to DAB, abandoning the ever-popular FM band to niche and local radio stations. Culture and comms minister Ed Vaizey is expected to outline the government's strategy next month.
Thirteen commercial operators, representing 80 radio stations, have signed up to the campaign - but it's the presence of major names that will raise eyebrows, names such as Paul Smith, chairman of Celador Entertainment. He joins veterans of the "no" camp such as William Rogers, boss of local radio group UKRD and Daniel Nathan, who runs Brighton's Juice 107.2 station.
"As the government gets ever closer to announcing what it intends to do, it needs to stop this forced switchover nonsense and start making decisions based upon the interests of the listener and not half-baked ideas and fantasy timetables," said Rogers.
"It's a classic case of emperor’s new clothes. DAB was never going to be a viable replacement for FM. In radio’s multi-platform future, DAB is simply one extra way to listen," added Nathan.
Q Radio Network and broadcasting behemoth UTV's radio division have also signed up.
The campaign generally represents smaller radio broadcasters. The largest commercial operator, Global Radio, wants the switchover date set pronto. But the smaller stations argue that only 15 per cent of local listening is done through DAB, which leave the smaller and more interesting stations in trouble.
The campaigners also cite evidence that listeners are pretty happy with the choice they have, as major broadcasters deliver the goods on analogue. After 14 years of DAB broadcasting, 90 per cent of audiences still listen to analogue radio and 23 per cent (allowing for those who listen to both) on DAB. The stations also argue that the radio switchover "does not form part of an internationally coordinated programme and will not unlock a taxpayer dividend from the sale of released spectrum".
They're also worried that without a funding agreement the major players will increase their market share, with an impact on diversity.
This summer the pro-DAB stations funded a bizarre advertising campaign which saw DAB sets fired from cannon, landing in mud patches, and knocking out joggers.
It's only been viewed 1,805 times on YouTube - but surely deserves a wider airing. ®