The author is president of WorldDAB.
It has been a long journey for French radio, but the launch of DAB+ in Lille is a critical step in the “nodes and arcs” strategy of the Conseil supérieur d'audiovisuel (CSA) and its radio working group Chairman, Nicolas Curien. It also represents a key moment for DAB+ in Europe.
Lille is the fourth metropolitan area in France to have regular DAB+ services and in the future 30 cities will be covered. We hope soon that the major road networks will also have their own dedicated services — the CSA is currently consulting on the issue - and these measures will create a national picture for DAB+ in metropolitan France.
With these developments, France is joining the European family of DAB nations — Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. Other markets are also following — Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine are all taking early steps on the DAB journey.
Across Europe today, more than 300 million people are covered by DAB services and together we have sold over 60 million receivers showing that DAB+ is clearly a mass-market proposition.
Crucially, this story is being recognized at a European level. Last October, the European Parliament proposed legislation requiring all new in-car radio receivers to be capable of receiving digital terrestrial radio. This proposal is similar to the Italian law that comes into effect in 2019/2020 and the French receiver law that will be triggered when DAB+ coverage exceeds 20 percent of the population.
This European proposal is currently under discussion between the European Parliament, The Council of Ministers and the Commission. We expect developments in the coming months.
WHY IS FRANCE GOING DIGITAL?
Very simply, if radio is to remain relevant in the 21 century, it needs to innovate. The problem is that FM spectrum is full. DAB+ addresses this situation by offering listeners new features and many more services. And the good news — audiences love these new services. In the U.K., 19 million people each week listen to services not available to them on analogue networks. This has helped drive U.K. radio to new levels of success — and, in the last four years, advertising revenues have grown by 27 percent.
All this has been achieved with a platform, which is free-to-air and anonymous (i.e. individual listening is not monitored) — with no reliance on third party gatekeepers. These are the benefits, which are driving this project. And these will be the benefits for broadcasters and listeners in France.
The prospects for success of DAB+ in France rest firmly in the hands of French stakeholders — from across the entire radio ecosystem. But lessons from other markets are evident - to be successful requires a coherent strategy supported by all players.
WorldDAB often talks about the five Cs — content, coverage, consumer equipment, cars and communication. A strategy covering all five aspects is the key to success.
To these five Cs, I would add two more: commitment and collaboration. Building a successful DAB+ platform is a long-term endeavor. The goal will only be achieved if everyone is focused on delivering an outcome that benefits all stakeholders. This is not always easy, but the first step is to understand the perspectives and priorities of all the other players in the radio ecosystem. With this foundation, it is possible to build a strong, successful platform which benefits broadcasters, manufacturers and, of course, the listeners.
With more cities to follow, we’re excited to watch the development of digital radio in France and to see broadcasters embracing the opportunities that DAB+ offers. Our congratulations to all those from across the radio ecosystem — broadcasters, regulators, network operators, policy makers, receiver manufacturers, car makers and retailers — who have been involved in the CSA’s strategy and the launch in Lille.