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Why DAB+ is the future of radio in Europe

Escrito por Patrick Hannon el 15/11/2016 a las 19:34:49
1963

(President of WorldDAB)

Across Europe radio plays a key role in citizens’ lives providing a vital source of news, information and entertainment. 84% of Europeans listen to radio every week – on average for more than two and a half hours a day. However, to remain relevant, radio needs to innovate.  

 

The difficulty is that FM spectrum is full. There is no room for new services and limited scope for innovation. This is a recipe for long term decline.  

 

DAB+ digital radio offers solutions to this situation.  For listeners, DAB+ offers greater choice, clearer sound and a range of new data services; and for broadcasters, DAB+ offers opportunities to launch new services (for example, niche programmes based on existing brands) and revitalise the medium.  


Why now?

 

A digital radio wave is moving across Europe. The UK, Norway, Switzerland and Denmark have had digital radio for several years. They have been followed by Germany, Netherlands and Italy and these all have national (or near) coverage.  A third wave is now on the move: France has DAB+ services in Paris, Nice and Marseille (with services in Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg due on air in 2017); Belgium will launch national DAB+ services in 2018; Slovenia just launched DAB services and in Poland, Polskie Radio has services covering 55% of the population. Trials are also under way in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey. 

 

51 million DAB receivers have been sold across the world.  As a result, prices have fallen significantly and, in some countries, radios are now available for less than €15. 


In the UK 85% of new cars now come with DAB as standard, with similar figures for Norway and Switzerland.  The technology is now ready for mass adoption.


Perhaps most significantly, the first countries have set dates for Digital Switchover – Norway in 2017 and Switzerland in 2020-24. 


Managing the transition 

 

A successful transition to digital radio requires the joint efforts of all players in the radio ecosystem; policy makers, regulators, public and private broadcasters, network providers, receiver manufacturers, retailers and car makers.  

 

The support of both public and private broadcasters is essential. Their role is to launch new services and promote the benefits of DAB+ to consumers, retailers and the car industry. 

 

Regulators should help create the conditions which will encourage private broadcasters, who may be concerned about the costs of broadcasting on two platforms for a number of years or about new competition.  

 

For automotive it is important that politicians, broadcasters and car makers understand the role which DAB can play within the car – in particular, emphasizing the reliability of DAB+ in times of emergency.

 

Is the Internet a viable alternative to DAB+?

 

Whilst IP is an important part of the digital radio landscape it has significant limitations – especially for drivers on the move.  


There are three reasons why IP should be positioned as a complementary platform for radio rather than the core platform: 


1.    It is not free-to-air; listening via 3G or 4G on smartphones uses up data packages and batteries

2.    IP coverage is not universal

3.    In times of emergency, mobile networks are unable to handle the demands of multiple listeners
DAB+ retains the key benefits of broadcast radio - free-to-air, reliable and universal information regardless of the number of listeners.  

 

Conclusion


Digital radio continues to go from strength to strength in Europe. Norway will soon be making history by switching off FM services, Switzerland will do the same from 2020. With Denmark and the UK not far behind and Germany working on a roadmap for its own Digital Switchover plans, there is clear momentum for digital radio from policy makers, broadcasters and listeners. 

 

It is important that stakeholders across Spain discuss the future of radio - but discussions should not be used as an excuse to delay progress.  Now is the time for decisions.  Now is the time for action.