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German State Sets Mid-2031 for FM Switchoff

Move has backing of both public and private radio, unlike in other states

The #SHhoertdigital campaign encourages listeners to “Switch now to DAB+.”

Private and public broadcasters in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein outlined a plan to migrate fully from the FM band. Under the plan, by mid-2031, broadcasters will end their analog FM broadcasts in favor of digital broadcasting via DAB+ and internet streaming.

State Minister for Digitization and Media Policy Dirk Schrödter announced the agreement at the “DAB+ im Dialog” event in Berlin at the end of June 2024.

“… Radio must face the digital future,” he said. “In Schleswig-Holstein, it is our aim as a pioneering region to shape the path to the digital future, including the migration from FM to DAB+ together with all the players in the state —public and private, large and small broadcasters.”

Under the migration plan, private stations Radio Bob! Rockt Schleswig-Holstein , Delta Radio and Antenne Sylt will move fully to digital transmission in 2025. Public broadcaster NDR’s youth channel N-Joy will switchover to DAB+ only in Niebüll in 2025, Helgoland in 2026, and Garding and Husum in 2027.

In 2026, Klassikradio, Freie Radio Neumünster, ad Freie Radio Flensburg with switchover to DAB+, followed by Radio Lübeck in 2027. By the end of June 2031, R.SH will complete its migration to digital radio.

Throughout the transition period NRD and the federal public station Deutschlandradio will continue to expand their DAB+ coverage with full switchover by 2031.

To promote the plan and prepare listeners, the state has launched a public-facing information campaign with the hashtag #SHhoertdigital, which translates as “SH listens digitally,” and the slogan “Switch now to DAB+.” Digitalradio Büro Deutschland has also launched an informational site for the switchover.

WorldDAB President Jacqueline Bierhorst cheered the announcement, which came at the same time Swiss public broadcaster SRG SSR announced plans to switch off its FM network by year-end 2024.

“The support from broadcasters, regulators and governments for DAB+ demonstrates once again that it offers significant cost savings and reduces environmental impact,” she stated. “I’m delighted at the latest news, and WorldDAB stands ready to continue supporting our members and friends with their great work.”

While Schleswig-Holstein has outlined a clear migration path to all-digital radio with the support of private broadcasters. Elsewhere in Germany, plans to switch off FM in 2025 have been pushed back.

In January, the state of Saxony-Anhalt halted a plan to switch off FM in 2025. The state parliament adopted a transition plan in 2010, but twice delayed the switchoff date before scrapping it entirely. Similarly, in late 2023, Bavarian regulators replaced their 2025 FM switchoff date with a plan that relies upon meeting DAB+ adoption milestones.

Public broadcasters also received news this year that their migration to DAB+ could be pushed back several years. Since 2016, the Kommission zur Ermittlung des Finanzbedarfs der Rundfunkanstalten (KEF), which recommends funding levels and broadcast fees for public broadcasting companies across Germany, has considered the combined cost of operating DAB+ and FM transmission paths when assessing broadcasters’ needs. However, that assessment was regularly decreased under the assumption that DAB+ would largely replace FM by 2029.

In its 24th report, released in February 2024, KEF acknowledged that the media policy decisions at the state level make a nationwide coordinated phaseout of FM “no longer achievable.” In light of this, the commission will continue to consider the costs of FM broadcasting through year-end 2032, after which other funding sources would be required for public broadcasters to maintain FM networks.

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