Digital radio is becoming increasingly popular across the UK ahead of the digital switchover. At the end of 2017, 49.9% of radio users were listening to digital.
That’s a 10% growth from the end of 2016, according to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), which monitors people’s radio-listening habits.
This uplift in digital radio popularity can be linked to growing numbers of listeners to newer radio stations. For example, Radio X – an alternative-music station broadcasting from London and Manchester – increased its reach by 26% from last year, and now has over 1.5m listeners.
Traditional radio stations also have a growing digital audience. At the end of 2017, BBC stations grew to 48.3% from 45.5% a year previously, and BBC Radio 4 exceeded the 50% quota needed for the digital switchover for the first time.
Be prepared for the digital switch with one of our Best Buy digital radios.
What is the digital switchover?
The digital switchover is a government proposal to make Digital Audio Broadcast (known as DAB) the main platform for national radio stations.
Like the television switchover in 2012, this will move the source of radio entertainment from analogue (FM and AM) to digital. This includes internet broadcasts, television channels and DAB radios.
It will mean that FM/AM radios will no longer be able to receive national radio stations. The change will happen once two conditions set by the government have been met:
- At least 50% of the radio audience have to be digital listeners.
- National DAB coverage must be comparable to FM.
Once these criteria have been reached, the switchover will be scheduled to take place in two years’ time.
For all the facts, read our digital radio switchover advice guide.
Pros and cons of DAB radio
Lots of us are digital listeners already, but some people prefer their trusty analogue radios. There are positives and negatives to digital listening, which will have to be addressed for the uptake to reach the quota and the switchover to be a success.
The benefits of DAB radio
Cost – With the current mix of digital and analogue systems, broadcasters are paying transmission fees twice. Moving to just one platform will reduce costs for the industry.
Choice – The FM spectrum is limited. Digital platforms have space for more stations, so listeners would have more choice of programmes.
Potential – Digital radio offers opportunities: greater interactivity for listeners, text scrolling information and even pausing, rewinding and recording live radio.
The downsides of DAB radio
Cost – DAB radios are more expensive to make and therefore cost much more than analogue models. You will need to spend around £40 for a radio with good sound quality.
Vehicles – Millions of cars currently on the road have analogue radios. However, you can use DAB adaptors to pick up signals. Efforts have also been made to increase coverage on major roads.
Reception – DAB reception is patchy across the country. When the signal is poor, the sound cuts out and stutters, making it more unpleasant to listen to than the fuzzy noise from weak FM.
Buying the best digital radio
If you’re new to the world of digital radios, our how to buy the best radio guide takes you through the different types you can buy and explains the features you might need.
Just looking for the best? See the top five radios for 2018 to find a star performer before the digital switchover.