The author is WorldDAB project director.
LONDON — The Covid-19 pandemic has caused radio listening to peak, but at the same time we’re hearing alarming reports from broadcasters about the huge loss in revenue being faced by many.
The presence of DAB+ has nonetheless remained constant, with its place as the core future platform for radio reflected in the many ongoing developments in major European markets.
Highlights include Germany’s plans to launch a second national commercial DAB+ multiplex, France’s ongoing preparations to launch national DAB+ services, and in the UK the announcement of a major program for licensing small-scale DAB.
We’re seeing some interesting developments in several newer markets too, including Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic and Poland.
DAB+ developments are not just limited to Europe though, with broadcasters in Africa and Asia also launching new DAB services, reflecting the increasing interest in DAB+ on a global scale. This long read provides an overview of the more significant developments we’ve seen across Europe and beyond over recent months.
GERMANY — 18 NEW NATIONAL DAB+ CHANNELS
The planned second commercial DAB+ multiplex will reach 83% of the population with up to 16 new national radio stations. The EECC directive has been successfully transposed into national legislation, covering also consumer receivers capable of displaying a station’s name. 54% of new cars sold in Germany in 2019 were equipped with digital radio — a 34% increase compared to 2018.
FRANCE — NATIONAL DAB+ MUX ON THE WAY
France is in the process of rolling out national DAB+ services and the country’s current legislation on digital radio is being amended to align with the EECC directive. The new regulation will require new cars sold across the country – as well as a number of consumers receivers – to include broadcast digital radio.
SWEDEN — RENEWED INTEREST in DAB+
In February, Bauer Sweden announced they plan to launch 10 DAB+ digital radio services reaching 40% of the population, saying they see DAB+ as the natural step to future-proofing and developing radio for listeners. In November 2019 the public broadcaster — Swedish Radio — submitted an application for a national DAB+ license for the period 2020-2025 for 10 channels. Back in June 2019 the commercial group NENT had already announced the expansion of their existing national DAB+ network and their plans to launch more new channels.
U.K. — NEW NATIONAL AND LOCAL DAB LAUNCHES
The UK has seen a significant increase in the number of listeners on DAB / DAB+, where three national multiplexes host over 50 commercial stations, of which 20 are now on DAB+. The UK government is conducting a digital radio and audio review to examine future trends and consider how radio should adapt to changing listening habits. This month has seen the launch of a new national DAB station with Global’s Smooth Chill, while the regulator Ofcom set out licensing plans for small-scale DAB.
ELSEWHERE IN EUROPE
In Switzerland, DAB+ listening figures have now surpassed listening on FM, as the country prepares to switch off FM services no later than the end of 2024. All stakeholders are working together toward the planned DSO and planning is underway for a comprehensive DSO communications plan.
In Norway, radio listening has returned to similar levels as before FM switch off. By February 2020, DAB’s weekly reach was 86-88%, and 75% of people have at least one DAB+ radio in their home, while 58 % have a DAB radio, line-fit or adapter in their car.
Italy was the first country to introduce regulation mandating all new receivers (consumer and automotive) to include DAB+ from January 2020. New vehicles produced before January 2020, which are not factory-fitted with a DAB+ receiver can only be sold up to 21 December 2020. Italy has three national and over 20 local DAB+ multiplexes on air, covering over 83% of the population.
In Belgium, following the launch of regular DAB+ services in Flanders in 2018, French-speaking Belgium launched regular services in November 2019. The official marketing launch at the end of 2019 had a significant impact on listener awareness, receiver sales, radio listening reach and share. Consumers’ increasing interest in DAB+ radio – particularly among 25-44 year olds – means it is now the only growing radio listening platform in the region.
In The Netherlands, discussions are taking place regarding the potential launch of a new national multiplex in 2021, while DAB+ receiver sales continue to grow. The country is also working on transposing the EECC directive into national regulation.
Austria launched national DAB+ services in May 2019 and major broadcasters and industry bodies have joined forces to petition for the introduction of regulation to bring Austria in line with the EECC directive.
In Spain, some regional governments — including Asturias, Navarra and Valencia — have urged government to implement legislation on the deployment of DAB+, while in Portugal, some commercial broadcasters have shown interest in launching DAB+, with key stakeholders closely monitoring the development of DAB+ digital radio taking place elsewhere in Europe.
DAB+ developments continue in Eastern Europe. In Czech Republic, a national DAB+ multiplex reaches 80% of the population. Poland is also stepping up the expansion of its DAB+ network, with new multiplexes planned for Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow, and Poznan. DAB+ services have recently launched in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.
In Australia, all major cities are already serviced by DAB+ digital radio. There are approximately 400 DAB+ stations on air in the country, and over 73% of new cars now come equipped with DAB+, with commercial radio stakeholders across the country now calling on Federal Government to increase spending in order to further accelerate the rollout of DAB+.
Thailand and Vietnam have ongoing significant DAB+ trials, in Bangkok, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh respectively. In Tunisia DAB+ was launched in 2019, now reaching 51% of the population, while in Algeria, a DAB+ trial launched in 2018 reaches two thirds of the capital city Algiers’ population.