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Letter: I Wish RTL Had Opted for DRM

Europe has chosen DAB+. "I'm not sure that's a very relevant choice," says a reader.

This letter is in response to the recently-published story “RTL Ends Longwave Service.” The author is a writer for Radio Club du Perche. Comment on this or any article. Email [email protected].

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you to react to the story by Carter Ross, RTL Ends Longwave Service.

This article is about the shutdown of RTL’s longwave broadcasts. The transmitter was shut down on Jan. 2, 2023, which was 24 hours later than what was announced. On Dec. 31, 2022, Mr. Georges Lang was at the microphone of RTL to host the New Year’s Eve dance party and he wished that his loyal listeners could continue to listen to him on longwaves. His wish was granted.

Beyond this story, the objective of my message is to share with you, if you will, the following question: “Why did RTL not consider broadcasting in DRM?” The power of the transmitter could be reduced to 500 kW — perhaps even less — and offer quality digital broadcasting with up to four channels on the same frequency of 234 kHz well beyond the hexagon and including text, according to the Journaline.

But Europe has chosen DAB+! I’m not sure that’s a very relevant choice when you think of the number of transmitters that will have to be installed.

The British launched Digital Radio with DAB more than 20 years ago and they are now confronted with DAB+! Today, we know that DAB++ or even DAB+++ are already developed and ready. Will listeners agree to change receivers every five to 10 years? I bought a DRM receiver in 2010 and 13 years later it still allows me to listen to RRI — Romania or AIR — All India Radio, with the AAC codec superior to MP3 for that matter.

India has bet on DRM, and many mediumwave transmitters broadcast in DRM (simulcast). Car radios must be equipped for listening in DRM. China broadcasts in DRM on its vast territory and New Zealand transmits its programs on the Pacific Islands in DRM (programs taken over by FM stations). Even North Korea broadcasts in DRM throughout the Pacific (to Korean boats!).

[Check Out More Letters at Radio World’s Reader’s Forum Section]

Regardless of the broadcasting method chosen, the switch to digital requires the purchase of a new receiver! DRM digital receivers are still very expensive because China hardly manufactures any — apart from Gospell to my knowledge. Receivers with a color screen are very expensive and broadcasters do not use all the digital functions, both for DAB+ and for DRM! It’s a pity.

I have a very good DAB+ receiver in my Citroën car with a 10 inch screen! There is no equivalent offered on the internet and in stores; why?

DAB receivers are also very expensive. I bought a very basic one to discover DAB+ — it works very well and picks up 101 stations broadcast in Paris, but 10 km as the crow flies NW of Paris, I no longer pick up anything. It is also very difficult to pick up the FM transmitters of the Eiffel Tower!

On the other hand, I can pick up Radio Chine Internationale and many other stations on shortwaves very well with a DSP receiver (weighing 69g with a 24cm antenna and a rechargeable battery) that I paid €31 for three years ago.

The next radio receiver has been around for a long time: it is the smartphone, and 5G will allow it to establish itself as the radio receiver or even the television set of tomorrow… The new generations no longer use radio receivers. So, who are DAB+ transmitters going to be used for? Motorists only?

So much for my vision of the future of radio… which I discovered with RTL more than 60 years ago! Another old and long story…

– Paul Jamet
Radio Club du Perche