Equity responds to digital radio and audio review

In October, the Digital Radio and Audio Review published its report, which looked at future trends in listening and made recommendations to government on ways of strengthening UK radio and audio. The review projected a decline in analogue radio listening and called on the UK radio industry to begin preparing the ground for a possible switch-off of analogue services at some point after 2030.

There are a number of other key findings:

  • Radio remains a strong, trusted medium in the UK delivering significant public value. It is vital source for news, vital information and company, especially the newly working from home. This was recently demonstrated during the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • Over the past 10 years, listening choices have expanded greatly thanks to digital technology and in particular to the successful development of the DAB digital radio platform. The rapid growth of streaming and podcasts demonstrates the enduring appeal of audio.

  • Traditional radio, including FM services, is valued by many listeners - particularly those who are older or vulnerable, drive older cars or live in areas with limited DAB or broadband coverage. However, AM now accounts for just 3% of all radio listening and it has reached the point where the BBC, commercial radio and Ofcom need to prepare for the retirement of national services.

  • Future listening projections show that radio will retain a central role in UK media for at least the next 10-15 years. Live radio will still account for over 50% of UK audio listening in the mid-2030s. But just 12%-14% of all radio listening will be analogue by 2030.

  • On current trends, FM will be needed until at least 2030. An eventual switch-off of AM and FM networks will help to reduce the long-term costs of dual networks but this transition needs to work for all listeners in all parts of the UK.

  • A strengthening of industry collaboration on future distribution is crucial for responding to these challenges. 

  • New regulation will be needed, coupled with increased powers for Ofcom and possibly new competition powers will be needed.

Equity welcomes this report highlighting the importance of radio and audio. Not only is radio – from commercials, to presenting, to radio drama – important for listeners, but it is also a vital source of employment and income for Equity members. We will ensure this remains as technology develops and the sources of radio changes.  

We are committed to working alongside key industry bodies within the audio and radio arena (including but not limited to, the BBC and commercial radio producers) to ensure that the development of new technology does not become detrimental to our members. A key priority will be to make sure that the talent and voice behind radio is fully considered and is not disadvantaged with any changes in how radio is transmitted. The findings also reflect the need for access to audio and radio for its broad listenership. Equity supports developments which maximise participation so that everybody in society can listen to and consume radio.