The author is communications manager for WorldDAB.
PARIS — The annual European Radio and Digital Audio Show, held in Paris last week, featured a number of sessions on digital radio and an increased number of exhibitors displaying DAB+ solutions, highlighting the rapid development that DAB+ has been experiencing in recent months, both in France and more widely in Europe.
In a session entitled “DAB+ Is the Core Future Platform for Radio,” WorldDAB representatives Patrick Hannon, Jacqueline Bierhorst and Jean-Marc Dubreuil were joined onstage by Joe D’Angelo, senior V.P. broadcast radio, Xperi; Javier Sanchez, head of strategy, Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española; Michael Hill, managing director, Radio Player UK; and Nicolas Curien, board member of the Le Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, to address industry professionals on the recent progress of DAB+ and its potential for the future in France and beyond.
Topics on the agenda included the benefits of DAB+ radio for broadcasters and consumers, the challenges and opportunities presented by in-car DAB+, hybrid radio as well as 5G and the significant progress that DAB+ has made over the last few months in France, the country hosting the European Radio Show.
In an earlier session hosted by WorldDAB’s Jean-Marc Dubreuil, over 50 regulators, independent and private broadcasters as well as other industry players from across the country came together to discuss the implications and requirements of digital radio marketing in France, underlining the industry’s enthusiasm toward DAB+, and agreeing on the need to organize themselves in order to ensure all parties involved benefit from it in the best way possible.
Last year was a crucial year for the development of DAB+ in France. In December 2018, DAB+ was launched in Strasbourg and Lyon, with over 40 DAB+ radio stations going on air across each of these regions. Following these two launches as well as earlier launches in Paris, Marseille, Nice and Lille, the CSA laid the foundation for the digital future of radio in France by announcing that over a fifth of the French population (21.3 percent) was now covered by DAB+.
On Dec. 20, the French receiver law requiring all new radio receivers to be equipped with DAB+ capabilities was officially triggered. The law, which is expected to be implemented in three phases over a period of 18 months, states that all new receivers able to display multimedia content are to integrate DAB+ capabilities within three months, while all other radio receivers (other than in-car) have 12 months to include digital capabilities. Finally, in-car receivers have 18 months to comply with the law.
Leading private radio groups in France also cast their votes in favor of DAB+, with all major French private radio groups — including but not limited to M6 Group (RTL), NextRadio group, Lagardère Group (Europe 1), and NRJ Group — all recognizing the potential of broadcasting in DAB+ and responding to the CSA’s national call for tenders at the end of 2018. The CSA is due to announce its decision on 20 February 2019, with 40 applicants competing over 24 spots.
In November 2018, the EU triggered a new European Electronic Communications Code requiring all new cars sold in the European Union to be equipped with digital radio receivers within two years. Having already triggered its own law which will see all new cars released in France 18 months from now equipped with radios that include DAB+, France now finds itself leading the race as far as the national rollout of DAB+ in Europe is concerned, with other EU member states now having a period of two years to present their own national regulations reflecting this directive.
According to the CSA’s “nodes and arcs” plan explained by CSA board member Nicolas Curien, it is expected that by 2020, 70 percent of the population of France will be covered by DAB+ signals. In fact, over 15 cities are expected to see the launch of DAB+ in coming months, including but not limited to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Dijon, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne, Tours, Orléans and Poitiers. The deployment of the new national multiplexes will also take place in 2020, while calls for applications for the remaining 30 percent will be launched in 2020, with further launches expected to take place by 2023.