Radio listeners will decide the pace of change to a digital switchover, with no set timeframe for old-school FM radios to be scrapped.
While Britain leads the world in adopting DAB digital radio with the best coverage available, communications minister Ed Vaizey said radio listeners will determine when the digital switchover will happen through their listening habits and purchasing decisions.
While this sounds dramatic, the new approach is not completely dissimilar to the old plan, which set 2015 as the switchover date, provided half of radio listeners have adopted digital and other provisions have been met.
In fact the target date remains 2015 with the same threshold in terms of digitally-enabled listeners, but Vaizey was keen to show the date is a target, not a cast-iron certainty.
However, he also said the government will drive the work to overcome the remaining barriers to the switchover and has published a Digital Radio Action Plan designed to encourage more consumers to make the switch, plus give the industry the certainty it needs for investment.
The government and industry will: agree a plan for building DAB coverage to match FM, develop a kitemark scheme for digital devices as well as a strategic marketing and communications plan, plus determine whether a help scheme similar to the digital TV switchover is needed and how it might be run.
They will also assess the impact of switching over to digital radio, including the costs and consider how to ensure rural areas are not left behind, as well as developing an environmental plan.
Speaking at the Intellect Digital Home Conference, Ed Vaizey heralded the switchover as a ‘huge opportunity' for listeners and the radio industry.
"At a time when we are looking for manufacturing success stories, British companies like Pure, Roberts and Bush are world leaders. And the technology offers radio lovers the same explosion of choice that TV viewers have embraced so wholeheartedly," he said.
He emphasised digital radio cannot be imposed on an unwilling public ‘no matter how persuasive the business case or how clearly we know that analogue is already providing a barrier to growth and creativity,' and listeners must discover the enhanced choice and sound quality for themselves.
"The Digital Radio Action Plan I am publishing today sets out our clear commitment to make progress towards digital radio switchover. But I am not setting a date. The industry believes 2015 is an achievable target date and we will work to support that ambition. And when the weight of public opinion is behind it, with more than half of all radio listening digital, then we can take the decision on when the country will be ready for switchover," he added.