NETHERLANDS: FM SWITCH-OFF BETWEEN 2027 AND 2032 IS STILL REALISTIC

The report does not, however, analyze listening habits, although according to RadioWereld.NL, the public devotes only 47% of its time to FM (data from August-September 2022)
Source

In anticipation of the renewal of FM licenses, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) has updated a 2017 study on switch-off scenarios between 2027 and 2032, confirming that the deadline is still realistic. Reduced mobile internet tariffs and the rise of smart speakers would favor an early switch-off, as would soaring energy costs and the fact that the use of radio is becoming less and less relevant in natural disasters and for traffic data disseminated by TMC. However, concerns remain about the still sub-optimal coverage of DAB+, particularly indoors, and the fact that in-car listening is 60% FM, despite the fact that new cars have been equipped with a digital receiver since the end of 2020.
(Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)

TUNNELS (Part 2): WITH DIGITAL RADIO THE COMPLEXITY INCREASES

A mobile RAI vehicle conducting tests for digital radio reception in the tunnels
Source

With the development of DAB comes the question of how to add services to an existing system. A study conducted in Italy in 2017 by the RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana Research Centre, in anticipation of the development of digital radio, highlighted the criticalities of using the structures built to broadcast the channel over Isoradio traffic. It would be necessary to intervene on the device that mixes the signals before conveying them on the slit cable: a costly and complex operation. It was therefore suggested, in order to drastically reduce costs, to use the radio wave system by re-transmitting the signal from an antenna placed at one end of the tunnel, or, in longer tunnels, at both ends.

A leading country…

On the BPC website, you can find in-depth technical information on tunnel diffusion systems
Source

Italy, due to its orography, is the second largest country in the world in terms of the number and length of tunnels, second only to China and followed by Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and France. And it can count on world-leading companies in tunnelling, underground construction and transmission systems with a high level of integration such as those used in the Frejus (12.8 km) and Mont Blanc (11.6 km) international motorway tunnels. More than 30 channels are available in these tunnels for the services of Italy and France: fire brigade, border police, Carabinieri, Gendarmerie, medical emergency vehicles and FM broadcasting with RDS. The systems are managed by a control centre that can interrupt radio programmes to broadcast emergency messages.

…but Switzerland also has its leadership

On the website of SRG SSR, the company that runs Switzerland’s public radio and television service, you can find a list of the 193 road tunnels where you can listen to digital radio
Source

Switzerland is well advanced on DAB. Network expansion has been going on since 2014: the country had given itself a ten-year horizon for the switchover to digital radio, which will take place at the end of 2024 when the analogue FM transmitters will be switched off. Currently, SSR network coverage for indoor reception is 98%, while for outdoor reception and car radios it even exceeds 99%. Today, therefore, Switzerland boasts the best DAB+ coverage in the world, with some 193 tunnels longer than 300 metres being illuminated by the signal already in 2018 with an investment of around CHF 30 million. The areas not covered are mainly located in peripheral regions, a problem that will be solved in the coming years.
(Writteb by Fabrizio Carnevalini)

UK: MANY NEW RADIO STATIONS DEBUT ON LOCAL DAB CHANNELS

148 radio stations in the UK hit the digital airwaves thanks to local radio revolution
Ofcom, the UK’s broadcast regulator, published a report on the first year of operation of the new DAB multiplexes
Source

Less than a year after digital multiplexes went live in the UK in the local area, already 148 stations have started broadcasting on DAB, increasing the range of programmes available to listeners. Compared to the other wavebands, broadcasting in the DAB band is cheaper because it allows several stations to broadcast on the same channel, thus sharing the costs of the transmitter (design, installation, transmission equipment, and antenna) and especially the running costs (station rental, power, and maintenance). A DAB+ channel can accommodate 12 to 24 programmes, depending on the bandwidth each radio requires (48 to 320 kHz, depending on the desired audio quality). Local commercial, community, and thematic broadcasters have arrived on the new frequencies, many of them making their debut on the airwaves.

Allocations still in progress

Ofcom awards five new small-scale DAB multiplex licences
The list of broadcasters that have already been granted authorization to broadcast on DAB on a local scale can be consulted on the Ofcom website
Source

The multiplexes in the local area are licensed by Ofcom (the UK’s communications regulator), which has so far authorized 59, of which 20 are already up and running. Others will go on air by the end of 2022 and during 2023. A third licensing round is currently being launched for the areas of Milton Keynes (Rutland), Stamford (Swindon), Marlborough (Wetherby and Harrogate), and the Yorkshire coast. The evaluation of the applications received for the fourth round, which made available a further 24 local multiplexes, is also underway. In spring 2023, the call for applications will be opened for round five, which will include the city of London and the southeast of England.

From the LGBT community to traditional Scottish music

Gorgeous Radio, previously only active on the web, is a broadcaster targeting the LGBT community
Gorgeous Radio, previously only active on the web, is a broadcaster targeting the LGBT community
Source

Stations previously only listenable on the web such as Salisbury Radio, Winchester Today, Rother Radio (Sheffield and Rotherham), Radio West Norfolk (King’s Lynn), and Central Radio (Blackpool) have debuted on the airwaves. Channels targeting specific groups, such as Gorgeous Radio (LGBT community), Spice Radio (local Asian community in the North East of England), and Celtic Music Radio in Glasgow and Edinburgh (contemporary and traditional Scottish music and culture). And then not-for-profit community stations operating on AM or FM, such as Radio Cardiff (98.7 MHz), Drive 105 (105.3 in Derry/Londonderry), Radio Tyneside (93.6), Cambridge 105 (105.0), Switch Radio (107.5 in Birmingham), Black Country Radio (92.2 and 102.5), Future Radio (107.8 in Norwich) and Akash Radio (1323 Medium Wave, the ‘1st Punjabi Radio Station in the North of England’ broadcasting from Leeds). As well as thematic radio stations offering dance, soul, afrobeat, album rock, easy listening, nostalgia, and alternative music.

SPAIN: WILL THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OPEN UP TO DIGITAL RADIO?

The Collserola tower, a daring construction designed by British architect Norman Foster in 1992 for the Olympic Games, is 288 metres high and also houses the antennas of the DAB multiplex for Barcelona
The Collserola tower, a daring construction designed by British architect Norman Foster in 1992 for the Olympic Games, is 288 meters high and also houses the antennas of the DAB multiplex for Barcelona

The Iberian country is lagging behind in the transition of radio to DAB. Eighteen years after the activation of multiplexes, digital broadcasting seems not to have emerged from the experimental phase: they are active in Madrid and Barcelona, and a few other cities, still broadcasting in the old standard DAB and not in DAB+. The few programs carried are those of Radio Nacional de Espana (Radio 1, Radio 5: Radio Clásica, and Radio 3 remain excluded), and the main networks (the missing ones are, for example, Cadena Dial, Los 40, Rock FM). Similarly to FM, where inertia in granting authorizations has proliferated illegal frequencies, to which networks also resort, unauthorized multiplexes have been turned on. The number of official ones active mainly in tourist areas (the Costa del Sol and Canary Islands) is doubled.

Avalanche of appeals

Panorama Audiovisual to reconstruct the situation interviewed Jaime Rodriguez Diez, the lawyer who advised the radio stations to file the appeals
Panorama Audiovisual to reconstruct the situation interviewed Jaime Rodriguez Diez, the lawyer who advised the radio stations to file the appeals
Source

Given the competition made to official radio stations by unauthorized ones, many broadcasters interested in digital broadcasting have appealed to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which between September and October 2022 upheld sixteen “recurso de amparo”, which added to those already pending bringing the total to 22. This ”recurso” is a legal formula that allows Spanish citizens to appeal to the supreme court when they believe constitutional norms have been violated. Giving an accurate picture of the situation is the magazine Panorama Audiovisual, which reconstructs its evolution since 2018 when broadcasters began turning to autonomous communities to apply for authorizations. Since some regions have refused, despite having an obligation to grant them, even though they did not proceed with the allocations, a law firm has recommended appeals to the Constitutional Court. Will they be upheld? Let’s keep our fingers crossed! (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)

UKRAINE: THE ‘VOICE OF KIEV’ BROADCAST ON DAB IN POLAND AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC

THE 'VOICE OF KIEV' BROADCAST ON DAB IN POLAND AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC
A coverage map showing where the digital signal can be received on Czech territory
Source

To inform millions of refugees, who have arrived in neighbouring countries, Poland has been broadcasting Українське Rадіо (Radio Ukraine) on a DAB channel since 4 March to inform Ukrainians in their mother tongue. The digital network reaches 70 per cent of the Polish population, focusing on urban areas and main communication routes. Similar situation in the Czech Republic: Radio Ukraine has been included in digital radio multiplexes since 11 a.m. on Friday, 4 March and is repeated on the website of the national radio station, Český Rozhlas. Pictured is a coverage map showing where the digital signal can be received on Czech territory.

Longwaves cover the whole of Ukraine and the Russians can’t “switch them off”

The programmes are also broadcast on the Polish radio website and can be listened to with the app
Source

But Poland has done more: Polskie Radio Jedynka (the first Polish public radio programme), shortly after the invasion, started broadcasting news items in Ukrainian, produced by the native speakers working on the international radio programmes. The channel is also broadcast on long waves, on 225 kHz, from the Solec Kujawski/Kabat broadcasting centre, which with its 1200 kW of power (reduced to 700 at night) covers most of the Ukrainian territory. In this way, the population in war zones can be informed even if the telecommunications networks are interrupted.

SWITZERLAND: DAB COVERAGE FURTHER IMPROVED

DAB COVERAGE FURTHER IMPROVED
In the latest technical bulletin (December 2021), SRG SSR takes stock of the expansion of the DAB+ digital transmission network
Source

Despite the fact that DAB+ signals already reach 99 % of the population in Switzerland, as required by the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), the public broadcaster has further expanded the digital network in Italian and French-speaking Switzerland. Between 2020 and 2021, ten new transmitters were activated and twelve others were optimized. Improvements were made in the cantons of Jura, in the northwest of the country, and Ticino, located almost entirely south of the Alps, where the network was further expanded at the beginning of 2021 with the activation of the installation in Cardada. In Switzerland, the digital signal is also broadcast in tunnels longer than 300 meters: the list of the 193 road tunnels covered by DAB+ signals can be consulted on broadcast.ch.

CZECH REPUBLIC: MW SWITCH-OFF BY 2021

The image published on the public radio site shows a detail of the mediumwave facility in Libice
Source

Czech public radio ‘Český Rozhlas‘ is stepping up its information campaign for listeners receiving mediumwave programmes, ahead of the planned switch-off of transmitters by the end of 2021. Since 1 November, more announcements have been broadcast to warn users and a call centre has been set up to explain the possible listening alternatives (from FM to DAB). In the run-up to Christmas, public radio will launch an intensive advertising campaign in the print media and online magazines on 22 November to promote the purchase of digital DAB receivers to replace analogue radio. The shift away from medium-wave has been underway since the 2000s, affecting countries that have an alternative FM network or are in the process of creating one in DAB. But AM (amplitude modulation) still remains a resource for countries with large territorial coverage that can reach the entire population with a few installations.

USA: Spotify revolutionises music in the car

Spotify revolutionises music in the car

As small and slim as an MP3 player, it attaches to the air vents or dashboard (various adapters are provided), and connected via Bluetooth to the phone opens the door to Spotify, Sweden’s market-leading music streaming platform. This small device could revolutionise music listening in the car. The price is low ($79.99 to the public), and in the United States the first units will be given away for free: you register on the site and pay only shipping: $6.99.

With this move, Spotify is skipping all the middlemen and attempting to deal a heavy blow to its competitors: car manufacturers, streaming platforms and, above all, radio stations, especially those that have recently landed on digital DAB. Car radios, on the other hand, are complicated, due to their ever-increasing integration with the on-board computer. Spotify, on the other hand, promises to simplify the relationship with music by offering a simple device that can be controlled by voice. Streaming platforms (such as TuneIn) have also been penalised, even though they are well integrated into cars, given that the “hunger for content” had prompted manufacturers to sign collaboration agreements with audio content aggregators.

But the blow could be very hard in view of the innovation that everyone is waiting for, Spotify Hi-FI, the high-performance format expected in the second half of 2021. Subscribers will be able to listen to their favourite tracks in CD quality with a bitrate of 320 kbps, something that not even Dab offers today: it could do so by drastically reducing the number of broadcasters currently hosted in a dab bouquet: in Italy, only the ADN group’s broadcasters in Calabria and several RAS channels in Alto Adige go at 128K, generally all of them, like those hosted by DabITalia, broadcast at 64 kbps (one fifth of the definition of Spotify Hi-Fi).

Spotify is also on a roll: its Q1 2021 report states that it has 158 million premium users (users who pay for all features without advertising), a jump of 28 million subscribers on a year earlier. There are 356 million active users globally (including those who use the free service: 198 million). In Italy, a study carried out by research institutes Kantar and ComScore on behalf of Google found that of the nine out of ten Italians who listen to music online, Spotify is in second place (54%) after YouTube (90%). This is followed by PrimeMusic (34%) and Apple Music (9%). While web radios account for only 15%.

FRANCE: Radio blows out one hundred candles

31 May sees the start of the Festival de la Radio, a week celebrating radio with meetings, seminars, open houses, special programmes
31 May sees the start of the Festival de la Radio, a week celebrating radio with meetings, seminars, open houses, special programmes
Source

To celebrate the centenary of the first radio broadcast and the 40th anniversary of the liberalisation of the airwaves, the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) has organised a festival to be held between 31 May and 6 June, 2021. Launched by the authority that regulates the French media system, the initiative will involve public and private broadcasters. 2021 marks the centenary of the first broadcast from the Tour Eiffel (24 December 1921) and 40 years since the liberalisation of the FM band (9 November 1981). But innovation will also be celebrated, as the first national multiplex in the digital band (DAB+) will be launched this year. History and archives, special programmes, media education seminars, lectures, open studios: many events will be organised during the week. Information is available here.

RUSSIA: The market is not mature enough for DAB radio

Produced by the Academy of the media industry, a report of 150 pages was drawn up by a team of academics from various universities and research centres
Produced by the Academy of the media industry, a report of 150 pages was drawn up by a team of academics from various universities and research centres
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The annual report on the information industry in Russia covers many aspects of the media. Among these, we have focussed our attention on the move to digital TV, FM band migration and the increase in numbers of transmitters, and digital radio coming to a stop.

Analogue TV is dead! (but still operating alongside digital)

The television broadcasting network has 5,040 transmitters broadcasting 20 TV channels and three radio stations (Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM) covering 98.4% of the country.
The television broadcasting network has 5,040 transmitters broadcasting 20 TV channels and three radio stations (Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM) covering 98.4% of the country.
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The switchover to digital was completed in 2019. It was proudly announced that the transition took ten years, which was faster than the United States (11 years), Australia (12) and Great Britain (14). In addition, with 98.4% of the population being able to tune in, Russia beats France (97.3%), Austria (96.0%), Switzerland (*) (95.0%) and Portugal (92.7%). However analogue TV is not totally dead. The national channels have been switched off, but the regional channels are still operating. And there are quite a few of them. Our FMLIST correspondent in the Republic of Karelia (east of Finland) confirmed that there are a good five of them in the city where he lives.

(*) Switzerland has switched off terrestrial TV via DVB-T in summer 2019

Radio stations move to FM

In order to listen to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in big cities, new transmitters will be switched on and the present number of 1,167 will be increased to 2,000 by 2021. 572 have already been ordered

In order to listen to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in big cities, new transmitters will be switched on and the present number of 1,167 will be increased to 2,000 by 2021. 572 have already been ordered
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The state radio network will be moving from broadcasting on the OIRT band (between 65.8 and 74 MHz) to the European FM band  (87.5-108 MHz), where the commercial radio stations are already present. New licences will be granted to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in order to allow them to broadcast in all cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. In order to manage the increase in number of channels, they are studying isofrequency networks used abroad in countries like Moldavia, where the radio station Inter-FM can be received with traffic information along the motorway. A solution based on a lot of low power transmitters would also not infringe health regulations that limit the use of high power transmitters.

‘The market is not ready’ for DAB

Digital radio is widespread in many European countries. From 2020 a European law has made it mandatory for automakers to equip all new cars with DAB radios
Digital radio is widespread in many European countries. From 2020 a European law has made it mandatory for automakers to equip all new cars with DAB radios
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The development of digital radio in Europe is analysed in the report. But this ‘revolution’ will not be happening in Russia. Even though frequencies for DAB+ transmissions have been allocated, this does not mean that they will be activated. The Ministry of Communications believes that the advertising market is not mature enough yet to justify the increase in the numbers of radio stations that can use updated technology.

St. Petersburg is experimenting with DRM+

Digital broadcasting on 95.7 MHz FM enables more than one channel to use the same bandwidth as analogue radio and does not interfere with radio stations in the vicinity
Digital broadcasting on 95.7 MHz FM enables more than one channel to use the same bandwidth as analogue radio and does not interfere with radio stations in the vicinity
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

Therefore the aim is to develop broadcasting systems such as DRM+ that allow a radio station to also transmit digital channels on the same FM frequency, leaving listeners free to equip themselves to receive transmissions in high quality sound, but not being obliged to replace their radio with a new one (estimated cost of about $10 US). In July 2019 Comedy Radio carried out tests in St. Petersburg by digitally broadcasting three channels on 95.7 MHz FM. The first one was a repeat of their analogue channel with a bitrate of 33 kbps, the other two were Avtoradio (43 kbps) and Evropa Plus (20 kbps).

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