The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2014

23 September 2014

Executive summary

1.1 Basis of report publication

In July 2010 the Government launched its Digital Radio Action Plan. As part of this, it was requested that Ofcom produce an annual review of the digital radio market. The Action Plan was launched to ensure that if and when digital switchover occurs in radio, it can be delivered at a time when the market is ready and in a way that protects the needs of listeners.

The Government stated that a decision on whether to set a date for digital radio switchover would be considered when the following criteria are met:

  • when 50% of all radio listening is via digital platforms; and
  • when national DAB coverage is comparable to FM, and local DAB reaches 90% of the population and all major roads.

The Action Plan was finalised in November 2013, and on 16 December 2013 DCMS announced that while there had been steady growth in digital listening, it was not yet the time to commit to a switchover. The last version of the Digital Radio Action Plan was published in January 2014.

This is Ofcom's fifth Digital Radio Report and it serves as an update to the data points in the previous reports that were produced as part of the Action Plan. Section 2 looks at availability and coverage, Sections 3 and 4 outline current take-up and listening patterns, and Section 5 draws on Ofcom's consumer research to cover attitudes of, and awareness towards, digital radio.

In this report 'digital radio' is used in its broadest sense to include all platforms and technologies that allow listeners to access digital radio services.

1.2 Key points


Digital radio services are available through a number of platforms - DAB, digital TV and internet - but coverage varies. On DAB, there are three types of multiplex, each of which provides a range of services: BBC national, commercial national and local multiplexes. The BBC national DAB multiplex covers 95% of households, while the national commercial digital multiplex reaches 90%. Services on local digital multiplexes are estimated to reach 73% of homes. Digital television services which also carry digital radio services can be received by 99% of households, while digital radio via broadband internet is available to almost all, and taken up by 78%.

The number of local DAB digital radio services available varies across the UK. In total there are 198 radio stations broadcasting on DAB. The highest availability is in London, where there are 60 services. This compares with areas such as Suffolk or Lincolnshire, where listeners receive the lowest number of stations (25).


Almost half of UK adults (48.5%) claim to own a DAB digital radio set. Take-up of DAB sets varies across the UK with the highest ownership in Cambridgeshire/Peterborough (58.1%) and the lowest in Northern Ireland (26.7%).

Compared to Q2 2013, sales of DAB digital radio sets were down by 9.1%, with 1.7 million being sold in the year to Q2 2014. Total radio sales were down by 11.3% over the same period. DAB sales continue to represent around a third of all radio set sales.

More than half of new cars (54.8%) are now fitted with DAB as standard. This is an increase of 16.5 percentage points year on year in newly UK-registered cars that have a DAB digital radio as standard.

Digital listening

While in previous years there has been consecutive quarterly growth in digital radio's share of total listening hours, quarterly figures from RAJAR show that between Q2 2013 and Q2 2014 it has remained broadly stable. However, over the full 12 months to June 2014, digital listening (including DAB, DTV and online) accounted for a 36.3% share of all radio listening hours. This is an increase of 2.4 percentage points on the previous 12-month period, and an increase of 10.4 percentage points since 2011.

Two-thirds of digital radio listening is through a DAB set. In the 12 months to June 2014 the most widely-used method of listening to digital radio was via a DAB set (65.3% of digital listening), while 16.3% of digital listening was online or via apps. Digital TV accounted for 13.8%.

BBC stations accounted for over half of digital listening (55.6%); of which simulcasts of analogue BBC radio services contributed the most.

Five digital-only radio stations had an average weekly reach of greater than one million listeners in the year to June 2014. BBC 6 Music is the most popular digital-only service, with an average of 1.86 million listeners, followed by BBC Radio 4 Extra with 1.65 million listeners. Absolute 80s was the most popular commercial digital-only station, with an average weekly reach of 1.17 million listeners.

Radio listeners in the AB socio-economic group are most likely to listen via digital radio. Figures from RAJAR show that 62.1% of this group listen to digital radio on a weekly basis, compared to 54.8% for those in C1 households, 47.8% for those in C2 households and 39.4% for those in DE socio-economic groups. Among different age groups, digital listening was highest for those aged 16-24, with 58.6% of radio listeners in this group listening to digital radio at least weekly.

Consumer awareness and attitudes

Eighty-six per cent of UK adults claim to have heard of digital radio in Q2 2014. Awareness was highest among those in AB households (92%), males (91%) and adults aged 35-54 (91%).

Seventy-four percent of DAB set owners associate digital radio with having a clear and high quality sound. Seven in ten (70%) said that they had experienced a wider choice of stations available on digital radio.

1.3 Background on survey methodology

This report uses a range of data drawn from the following research sources:

  • Ofcom licensing data;
  • retail equipment sales and pricing statistics (from an external agency, GfK);
  • Ofcom Technology Tracker research data;
  • data on the number of DAB radios in newly registered cars, from the Society of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT); and
  • RAJAR radio listening analysis.

As with any survey data, Ofcom's technology tracking study is subject to an error margin - which will be up to +/- 2 percentage points. Note that this report supersedes its predecessor.

Full Reports 

The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2014 PDF, 975.1 KB

Digital Radio Report 2014 chart pack PDF, 785.8 KB