Changes to digital radio dependent on listener numbers

image captionDigital listening figures are still very low compared with analogue radio

There is "no compulsion" to stick to a plan to switch over from FM to digital radio by 2015, communications minister Ed Vaizey has said.

He announced a Digital Radio Action Plan in a bid to encourage more listeners to move from analogue.

Mr Vaizey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are committed to digital radio but haven't set a date."

He emphasised that "if people are still listening to, say, the BBC on FM by 2015, then that will continue".

The bandwith will still be made available for local radio after switchover, Mr Vaizey added.

BBC's role

"We are setting up a structure which will not only bring listeners to the table, but radio manufacturers and broadcasters.

"A whole ecology is needed to get digital radio moving and off the ground," he said.

The minister also praised 6 Music for being a good example of a service which has attracted listeners to take up digital - including himself.

Mr Vaizey said in his speech that there would be no switchover "until the vast majority of listeners have voluntarily adopted digital radio over analogue".

But he added: "I hope in a few years time, when we approach switchover, radio listeners will see the benefits of multi-channel national radio in exactly the same way that television viewers have seen such benefits."

He added that the government would work with car manufacturers to achieve a goal of making digital radios standard in cars by 2013.

The minister's speech emphasised that the BBC should play a leading role in the promotion of digital radio.

The corporation said today that it would support digital uptake with the construction of 61 new transmitters that would increase UK coverage from 85 to 92%.

They would also help improve in-car reception by being placed near major motorway networks.

Latest figures from Rajar show that, in March 2010, 24% of all radio listening was digital, compared with 66% on AM or FM radio.

That represents a rise of 20% compared with the same period in 2009.

The remainder listen to radio via the internet, digital television and other outlets.

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