Advanced Television

BBC must pay for DAB cover

February 11, 2010

Sion Simon, creative industries minister, has said the BBC must pay the extra £20 million (E23m) a year for digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio transmitter network to ensure equivalent coverage as FM; 98 per cent.

“In the crucial matter of building out the extra transmitter infrastructure so that the coverage matches that currently provided by FM, the assumption is the commercial sector would fund that buildout as far as it was commercially viable, and then the assumption is that the BBC, with its obligation to provide a universal service, would fund the probably 7 per cent or 8 per cent of buildout that wasn’t commercially viable,” Simon told the House of Lords communications committee’s inquiry into digital TV and radio switchover.

“I’m assuming that the BBC would be building those transmitters. We are talking about a cost of between £10 million and £20 milion a year. The assumption is that the BBC would be able to absorb that within its current budgets.”

Caroline Thomson, the BBC’s chief operating officer, told the committee last week that the BBC would not complete the rollout of the DAB transmitter network until the government had set a concrete date for digital switchover. She said the further rollout – which would cost tens of millions of pounds – would also be “subject to a licence-fee settlement which enabled us to do it”.

“We have embarked on a digital route, we are committed to 90 per cent and we will do that. Covering the final 10 per cent – or the final 9 per cent costs an awful lot of extra money. It will probably double – not quite double – the amount of money we will have to spend on DAB transmission.”

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