Sweden and Switzerland join Norway in FM switch over

Sweden and Switzerland have published roadmaps for a digital switchover from FM to DAB+.
It comes just days after German public broadcaster ARD announced its commitment to a transition to DAB+, and weeks after Norway announced all criteria have been met for FM switch off in 2017.
WorldDAB Press Release: Swedish Digital Radio Coordinator, Nina Wormbs, presented a roadmap to the Minister of Culture, outlining a plan developed in coordination with public service and commercial radio sectors. Parliament is now expected to make a decision on the roadmap in autumn 2015. A decision to proceed with the plan will allow for compulsory procurement of the distribution network. The plan has three parts:

  • a mutual launch by the commercial and public radio sectors with 70% coverage by Christmas 2016
  • the extension of existing analogue commercial licenses, with no license fees, until FM transmissions are discontinued, to enable
    commercial radio to plan and invest in the new digital distribution system
  • shutdown of FM in 2022, conditional on four criteria – coverage to be the same as existing FM transmissions (99.8%), increased offer and more value to the listener, 50% of daily listening to be via digital radio and practical possibilities to convert cars

If these conditions are met in 2020, then FM is to be discontinued in 2022 – or, if the criteria are not met at that time, FM shutdown will be in 2024. FM shutdown will not affect community radio, they can continue to broadcast on FM if they so choose at that time.
And the Swiss commercial and public radio sectors joined forces with OFCOM to form the Digital Migration (DigiMig) working group, and today submitted a report to the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of Switzerland (DETEC) outlining a roadmap for a switchover from FM to DAB+. The report states that Swiss radio stations should be broadcast via DAB+ by 2024 at the latest, with FM transmitters being phased out by this date. The report has two phases:

  • Phase 1 runs until 2019 and provides for specific marketing and communications measures to promote digital radio listening at home and in the car
  • Phase 2 provides for the phased switch off of FM transmitters between 2020 and 2024

The reports from both countries are the product of close collaboration between the public and commercial radio sectors and both cite the fact that FM has reached its capacity limits as one of the main reasons for digitising radio.
Yesterday’s announcements reflect the growing momentum towards the rollout of DAB/DAB+ digital radio across Europe, with well over 90% network coverage now available in the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, and although in a pre-launch phase, at 65% in Italy. Over 30 million domestic and automotive DAB/DAB+ receivers have now been sold – with annual sales almost doubling in the last four years. In Germany, it was announced in October 2014 that receiver sales have increased by 52% year-on-year. In the UK, the government remains committed to a digital future for radio, and 58% of new cars sold are now line-fit with DAB. In November, at the WorldDMB General Assembly in Rome, Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development announced its commitment to a national rollout of DAB+.
As many radio device, automotive and mobile phone manufacturers are targeting a pan-European market, greater progress can be made with commitment to a harmonised pan-European digital future for radio, leading to more choice for the listener, improved audience reach and significantly lower transmission costs for the broadcaster.
Patrick Hannon, President of WorldDMB, said “The pace of change in digital radio is accelerating. For listeners, DAB+ offers greater choice, clearer sound and additional data; for society, DAB+ allows radio to remain anonymous and free to air. The announcements from Sweden and Switzerland send a clear statement that the future of radio is digital.”

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