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Belgium’s Wallonia-Brussels Federation Redefines Radio Landscape

CSA attributes first commercial DAB+ licenses to Belgian French-speaking broadcasters

BRUSSELS — On Thursday July 11, the Conseil Supérieur de L’Audiovisuel officially revealed the new frequency plan for Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the French speaking part of Belgium. It published the final list of license winners on July 17.

With four networks we double our presence in the Walloon radio landscape,” said Marc Vossen, CEO NGroup. “We commit ourselves to DAB+ and are willing to invest.” Photo courtesy of NGroup

In January, the media watchdog invited broadcasters in the federation to apply for analog (FM) and/or digital (DAB+) frequencies. In total, the CSA received 123 admissible applications.

The CSA subsequently gave the green light to 72 FM frequencies for independent stations and four frequencies for provincial radio networks. In addition, six “national” (for the South of Belgium) and urban networks were granted an FM license.

In the digital domain, 75 independent and four community stations (covering Wallonia-Brussels Federation) received access to DAB+ multiplexes.

CSA’s decision to redefine the Wallonia-Brussels Federation radio landscape for a nine-year term marks an important step toward digital radio development. The inclusion of independent radio stations makes DAB+ offerings in the French speaking part of the country one of the richest and most diverse in Europe.

With 11 FM frequencies and 141 DAB+ licenses still available for local and independent broadcasters, the CSA plans to organize a new frequency round, which will allow more independent stations to go on air. The Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles government also announced that it would financially support local radio stations in their technical transition to DAB+.

“Never before has a commercial radio station in the French-speaking part of the country been granted a DAB+ license,” said Francis Goffin, CEO of maRadio.be, an organization that brings together public and commercial radio stations to promote DAB+.  “Although the RTBF was not involved with the current frequency allocation round, the public broadcaster will expand its current six DAB+ stations with two extra services this year.”

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Broadcaster NGroup, with a current market share of 22.1% (source: CIM) received two FM frequencies for Nostalgie and NRJ, plus four DAB+ licenses for Nostalgie, NRJ, Chérie and newcomer Goldie. This makes NGroup the leading commercial radio player in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

The government supports a technical transition to DAB+ for local stations. Photo courtesy of maRadio.be

“It was a long process, but I want to thank our teams for obtaining these frequencies. We might be disappointed for not having won an FM licence for Chérie, but with Goldie we offer a new brand targeting 7- to 77-year-olds via DAB+,” said Marc Vossen, CEO of NGroup.

With LN24, the region also welcomed its first 24/7 news station — the channel will officially launch on Sept. 2 with independent news broadcasts on TV, internet and DAB+.

The “Nos Radios” project, which groups six local TV stations in a frequency application and RTL’s “Mint” channel were among the stations not receiving a broadcast license.

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