The author is president of WorldDAB.
LONDON — The last 12 months have been an exciting period for DAB digital radio. At the end of last year, the European Union adopted the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which will require all new car radios in the EU to be capable of receiving digital terrestrial radio. Shortly afterwards France confirmed the launch of national DAB+ with the support of all their major broadcasters.
Progress has continued throughout 2019 — in May, Austria launched national DAB+ services and in the summer, Sweden saw the launch of national commercial DAB+.
More established markets have maintained their momentum in driving DAB+ digital radio forward. Following Norway’s switch-off in 2017, Switzerland has confirmed the switch-off of national FM services by the end of 2024; Germany and the Netherlands continue to make strong and steady progress, and the United Kingdom is seeing record levels of digital listening.
Belgium, the country hosting this year’s General Assembly, is also seeing high levels of activity, with both the Flemish (Dutch Speaking) and Wallonia (French speaking) regions demonstrating their commitment to the growth of DAB+.
A further important development in Europe is the introduction of regulation requiring consumer receivers to include DAB+. Such laws will come into force in Italy and France in 2020, while a similar law — coming into effect in December 2020 — has just been passed in Germany. For WorldDAB, encouraging the adoption of such rules in other markets will be a priority in 2020 and beyond.
We are also seeing interesting developments outside of Europe, with numerous markets pursuing trials in the Middle East, North and South Africa as well as Southeast Asia, and more significant developments in Australia and Tunisia. The former is now seeing its highest ever levels of DAB+ radio being fitted in new cars, while the latter — which is a potential gateway to the wider Arabic speaking region — has recently launched the first regular services in North Africa.
PROTECTING RADIO BROADCASTERS
Against this positive background, it’s increasingly clear that broadcasters and policy makers are concerned about the growing power of the tech giants in relation to national, regional and local content providers. This is likely to be a key topic of discussion at this year’s General Assembly. As WorldDAB, our focus will be on highlighting the contribution which DAB+ radio makes toward promoting and protecting the interests of national and local radio broadcasters.
Of course, the digital radio listening experience is evolving, and DAB+ is not the only digital platform. The key to long-term success is to position DAB+ at the heart of broadcasters’ digital strategies, and ensure its unique characteristics are preserved as the radio industry moves forward.
All of the above topics will be covered over the two days of the event held in Brussels, Belgium, and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there.
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