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BBC and Commercial Radio sector announce new Digital Britain partnership at Media Guardian’s Radio Reborn conference


radioreborn-largeMedia Guardian’s Radio Reborn conference truly signified a new era for the Radio Industry. The big news of the conference, which took place at the CBI Conference Centre yesterday, was the joint announcement between the BBC and the commercial radio sector that they are to form a new partnership initiative designed to place radio at the heart of Digital Britain and secure its digital future.


The initiative intends to establish The Radio Council, which will lead to a range of partnership initiatives between the BBC and the three largest commercial groups, Global Radio, Bauer Media and GMG, as well as the RadioCentre to represent the rest of the commercial sector, bringing the industry together to secure radio’s future in the digital age.

Under the plans, users can expect to see a universal radio player similar to that of the BBC iPlayer encompassing all the leading commercial and BBC stations across the UK.

Whilst the announcement was well received, details are rather limited. That said the news that the key players within the industry are working together, whilst still competing individually for listeners, means that the long term future of securing a strong and universal platform for all radio content is secured. 

The move to digital is already well underway for television. The same is needed for radio if it is to continue and maintain its reach onto new platforms as analogue switch off approaches. 

However, whilst these proposals are a step in the right direction, support and understanding of DAB is crucial. It was therefore pleasing to see that the conference spent a large part of the day tackling these issues and discussing the importance of securing a migration date to digital switchover similar to that set for TV, 2012.

Global Radio chief executive Stephen Miron led the calls stating that the government needed to focus its minds on a set date. Miron’s claims are notably significant for they herald the first time a commercial player has spoken so favourably of DAB, after years of lukewarm support. 

He told delegates: “We back digital, and we back the strategy but we cannot afford to get this wrong. The next draft [of Digital Britain] needs to be bolder. Digital Britain has made us focus our minds. Now the government must focus theirs,” he said.

“We have embarked on a clear path to digital – to DAB – and we need to make serious progress and do it quickly. This means naming a date for migration, with a transparent set of criteria for all the relevant parties to meet. Whatever the date, and we personally believe the earlier the better, a firm date needs to be set.”

Although these plans are all still in the preliminary stages the sheer optimism and presence of new blood like Tim Davie, BBC director of audio & music and Global Radio’s chief executive Stephen Miron recently parachuted in from Associated Newspapers, in the industry, suggests the future looks very prosperous for the radio industry.

Miron made a rallying cry to the industry demanding that success and growth lied in positivity and a belief in the medium. He said: Commercial radio does “not believe in itself nearly enough”, adding that it and was too insular, too navel-gazing and not ambitious enough – and that needs to change and will change as we move towards Digital Britain. 

The Digital Britain report will be published in the coming months.

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