Ahead of his much-heralded announcement on the digital radio switchover next week, the Minister for Culture Communication and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey has already told us that he will not be pushed into a switchover date until DAB has "adequate coverage".
But the smaller stations have been pointing out that, even with 100% coverage, many of them will not have a practical route onto DAB as it is presently constituted.
Vaizey stated: “We have never said we will require small stations to go digital, and FM can work in tandem with DAB”. This sounds reasonable but, as I've said here before, misses the point. All other digital audiovisual and information technologies have had the effect of adding choice, allowing additional access and creativity, and have been accessible to all providers big or small.
Saying that small stations can stay on FM is an admission that DAB (as designed in the 1980s) is not up to the job. It is currently the only digital media technology to offer FEWER choices to consumers than the analogue system it wants to replace.
It is as if only the big multi-national record companies had been able to release music on CD. This would be okay, according to Vaizey, because independents and small studios could still issue their songs on vinyl.
Or if only the big Hollywood studios could release movies on DVD. This would be okay, under the Vaizey principle, because independent productions, art house movies and student productions could still be distributed on VHS cassettes!
I agree digital radio is the way forward, but if its so great it should be accessible to all producers and listeners - not just the established big boys.