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Rising Energy Costs Could Spur Digital Migration

Projected cost reductions cited as reason for Germany to accelerate the migration to DAB+

As energy costs rise, Deutschlandradio Director Sefan Raue sees a further reason to hasten an FM switch-off for Germany.

“We will not be able to afford two terrestrial distribution channels in the long run. The signs are clearer than two or three years ago,” Raue told German press agency dpa, according to Hadelsblatt. “FM is an energy guzzler.”

A public broadcaster, Deutschlandradio is based in Cologne and Berlin and operates several national channels on DAB+ and FM. The channel been steadily replacing its remaining FM transmitters with DAB+; six of its short-range analog transmitters are going dark at the end of June 2022. The broadcaster expects to have at total of 161 locations broadcasting its DAB+ channels nationwide by year-end, reaching some 90% of the German populace.

[Related: “Digital Radio Tackles Green Challenge”]

The lower energy requirements for digital broadcasting have been of increasing interest to broadcasters in recent years. In 2020, the BBC Research & Development Office released a paper demonstrating significant reductions in energy demands for DAB and DAB+IP radio broadcasting compared to continued analog broadcasting, DTV-based radio or IP radio alone. In 2021, Bavarian public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and regulator BLM released a similar analysis.

According to the latest biennial report from the KEF commission, which assesses the financial needs of national and state-level public broadcasters in Germany, the regional public broadcasters group ARD is looking to migrate off FM by year-end 2024, with Bavarian public radio looking to finalize its transition to all-digital even more quickly.

Despite the projected energy savings, private broadcasters remain wary of abandoning analog FM broadcasting.

Speaking in March at the DAB+ im Dialog panel, private broadcasters association VAUNET CEO Marco Maier urged Germany to remain technology neutral, noting that the high cost of migrating from FM to DAB+ were too great to be financed solely through advertising. Maier also noted that coverage gaps remain in the digital networks and until they are filled analog FM should remain part of the German airwaves.