Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, is due to let them know at a conference today – but he finds himself trying to balance the ambitions of the broadcasters against public resistance to enforced change. Mindful of the vote-losing potential of telling millions of listeners that their old sets could become defunct, he is not expected to set a date. And as the owner of two very nice looking Roberts retro DAB radio sets (each costing around £150) I, for one, am pleased to hear that because the technology is not yet up to scratch.
Even in south London, one of our radios is always cutting out and another would not let us change channel from Radio Four for days on end until, seemingly with a mind of its own, it decided we wanted to listen to Classic instead. Our old-fashioned analogue tuner is far more reliable.
This has been the problem from the outset, ever since the last Labour government said it wanted to do to radio what has now been done, painlessly, to TV and make analogue redundant. But unlike with television, where digital by and large works, the public has been singularly resistant to the enforced digitalisation of radio precisely because, by and large, it doesn’t always work as well as it should.
Sensibly, Mr Vaizey has taken the view that this has to be a “listener-led” exercise; yet there is still a feeling that we are being frogmarched in a direction that many people don’t want to go. The minister is very much “pro-digital”, as are most of the main broadcasters, but the same cannot be said for the smaller local and community-based stations for whom a switchover could prove ruinously expensive.