As of September 2022, New Zealand’s public broadcaster (RNZ) has increased its shortwave broadcasting hours aimed at the Pacific region. The four morning hours, suspended in 2016, restarted thanks to new government funding, on three frequencies: at 5 a.m. local time on 7425 kHz, 6 a.m. on 9700 kHz, and 8 a.m. on 11725 kHz. The most listened news program is also repeated by the BBC Pacific Service. Shortwave broadcasting, largely abandoned since the 1990s at the end of the Cold War, still remains the most effective means of covering very large areas. As in the Pacific Ocean archipelagos, where many communities still use the old analogue radios with the SW (Short Waves) band to inform themselves.
It also broadcasts digitally
In the middle hours of the day, however, the station broadcasts with the DRM standard: a digital transmission system that eliminates all the typical hissing due to atmospheric and electromagnetic interference. The audio is stereo, but it is out of reach of the old analogue radios. In order to receive the DRM you have to buy a receiver that is set up to decode the digital signal, which costs between 50 and 100 euros. Alternatively, the signal is broadcast bysatellite from Intelsat 19 on C-band: coverage extends from Singapore eastward to the Cook Islands, including Fiji, Tonga, Niue and Samoa. (Written byFabrizio Carnevalini)
In the UK, frequency modulation will not be switched off, at least not for the next ten years, media minister Julia Lopez said a few days ago. Although it is estimated that analogue radio will only account for 12 to 14% of all radio listening in 2030, FM remains popular with many listeners, particularly the elderly or vulnerable, who drive older cars or live in areas with limited DAB coverage. The fate of mediumwave broadcasters is sealed: with 3% of all listeners, they will have to plan to switch off, to reduce the costs of a substantially duplicated network. There are currently more than 300 analogue stations operating in the UK and over 570 in DAB. Sixty percent of all listening comes from DAB or other digital platforms. Programme offerings are expanding as new franchises in DAB are giving many small local stations the opportunity to broadcast.
In 2017, news that Norway was the first country to switch off the FM band in favour of DABgrabbed headlines. The idea tickled the imagination, so few verified it. But it was a hoax: the sensationalism of the news had overshadowed the reality. What abandoned FM was public radio NRKand, above all, the commercial networks. NRK occupied two frequencies out of three of those active in the country: 2000, compared to 1000 of all other radio stations, networks included. The main beneficiary of this operation was public radio: concentrating in a single multiplex four national networks, divesting hundreds of transmission sites (they were 700) and decommissioning FM transmitters nearing the end of their life, would have realized great economies of scale.
Towards a five-year extension
Of the remaining frequencies, 40% (400) have been switched off by private networks and large commercial radio stations, especially in the capital and in large urban areas. But the others are still on the air: 552 (data from www.fmlist.org) used by 100 radio stations, many of which declare on their website that they are proud to continue in analogue. Some stations have also switched on DAB muxes (there are several used by a single station, which at most host two or three thematic channels) to keep up with the news. Broadcasting will continue until at least 2026: Mari Velsand, director of the Norwegian Media Authority recommended the government extend the FM licenses another five years, believing that media diversity would be compromised if the shutdown occurred at the end of 2021, as planned.