The BBC will pay for the rollout of the UK's digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio infrastructure to reach 97% of the population. Tim Davie, the corporation's director of audio and music, said that the BBC would fund the expansion of the national DAB platform from its current coverage level of over 90%. In a speech to the Drive to Digital conference at the BBC's Broadcasting House in central London this wek, Davie said the priority was securing "solid coverage" in the UK's top 25 cities.
He added that every town with a population of more than 5,000 would have indoor DAB coverage, but admitted that "small pockets of poor coverage in some of these areas" would still remain.
The government has loosely committed to starting the digital radio switchover - involving the end of analogue FM - by 2015, but the industry largely views this as an unachievable target.
Also speaking at the conference, culture minister Ed Vaizey said that the 2015 switchover target still has an "important purpose" and stressed the benefits of going digital.
Vaizey said that the UK "leads the world" in digital radio with more than 14m DAB sets sold, while close to 27% of all radio listening was via digital platforms, including DAB, online, digital TV and mobile.
He also said that almost one in five new cars sold in Britain now came with a DAB fitted as standard, with the industry on course to hit its 50% target by the end of 2013.
The government intends to launch a digital radio certification mark towards the end of 2012, providing consumers with "clarity and assurance" when buying a digital set.
Vaizey added: "There is undoubtedly a huge amount of work to done between now and mid-2013, with even more to follow if the switchover is to become a reality, but right now the only future I envisage for radio is digital.
"No-one could predict ten years ago the success of Apple, the domination of Google, profitability in social networking, particles travelling faster than the speed of light.
"However in all of these instances success and positive change were not achieved by standing still, but by grasping the opportunities in front of them.
"Let us see digital radio as an opportunity. An opportunity for our customers, our listeners and ourselves and not be shackled by the barriers of today but see the potential of tomorrow."