What are the government going to do with the FM bandwidth that's freed up by the move to digital?
John - Well, if this all goes ahead - the plan to migrate most radio listening to digital and by that, we mean DAB primarily - it does free up the space on FM band. Whatís been said so far is that local radio stations that cannot afford to get on DAB, small scale community stations as well, as small scale commercials, they would remain on FM.
Chris - But the license for a national DAB station is not very expensive. Itís only about Ė I was talking to someone the other day about this actually - they said itís about £500,000 for a a national DAB license. At the moment, people are spending significantly more than that on an FM licence.
John - Well, I donít think that's the case in the smaller scale radio stations. I'm talking about city wide stations which work on a very tight budget with maybe 3 or 4 staff, a bit like a commercial version of community radio which of course is run on an essentially voluntary basis. They just do not have the funds to do it. They have tried going on to local DAB multiplexes in some areas, but they find the cost prohibitive and the listenership, not very great.
Chris - This is quite funny, isnít it, that everyone strove for FM and now FM is going to become the poor personís radio, where at the moment, everyone wants to be on FM. They're all going to over to digital, we would expect, and this means that then youíd use that capacity for lower budget operations into the future.
John - Itís a curious development, yes. Itís quite different to the model for analogue television switch off where there was a digital dividend quite clearly payable there. What we mean by that is, they were able to re-use some of the frequencies that were previously required in the analogue world which were no longer required in the digital world, and that will allow us to roll out for example, 4G, wireless radio mics in different bands and the like. The FM band between 87.5 megahertz and 108 megahertz, itís difficult to see what commercial value that has outside conventional analogue broadcasting.