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DON'T PANIC: No FM Death Date next month, minister confirms

Stay of execution granted for much-loved audio tech

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Culture and Comms Minister Ed Vaizey told Parliament last night he won't announce an expiry date next month for a popular technology that everyone uses and loves: FM radio.

Vaizey will, however, make a much-anticipated strategy statement, while the larger radio stations had hoped he'd set a firm date for when broadcasters shift from FM to DAB.

After that date, FM would linger on in a spooky kind of afterlife - but millions of UK listeners would have to change sets, and others would lose their service altogether.

"We will not be pushed into a switchover date," Vaizey told MPs. "When it comes to the timetable and the setting of dates, we have always been clear that these will be led by the radio listener. There will be no switchover until the majority of listening is digital. It is clear that we are not there yet.”

"While good progress has been made,” Vaizey continued, “with the number of adults with access to a DAB digital radio up 10% year on year and places like London reaching 40%, we need to make more progress."

Vaizey was bullish about the potential of small scale DAB - a technology that uses cheap equipment and open source software. But broadcast regulator OFCOM has cautioned that while SS-DAB offers new opportunities for events and popup stations, the spectrum and penetration issues mean indoor coverage will be poor, and general coverage patchy at best.

Vaizey said local DAB coverage was now up to 72 per cent locally - but small stations would not be forced to go DAB, he confirmed. ®

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