BRUSSELS — Belgium has seen a number of digital radio developments in recent weeks. On Nov. 5, Flemish Regulatory body for the Media, Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media, organized its annual DAB+ symposium. During the event, which attracted some 120 attendees, a panel of specialists discussed the evolution of the digital radio standard and its status in broadcast and automotive sectors, as well as market progress.
In his closing speech, Flemish Media Minister Sven Gatz announced that the switch date from FM to DAB+ would be determined when 50 percent of the audience is listening to digital radio.
“This includes DAB+, streaming and digital TV audio,” Gatz specified. “The government will then set a date for the definitive digital switchover for the national broadcasters.”
Monday, Nov. 12 saw the first “Week van de Digitale Radio” (“Digital Radio Week”) in Flanders. A joint initiative coordinated by Digital Radio Vlaanderen (Digital Radio Flanders), bringing together public broadcaster VRT, private radio broadcasters Medialaan (Qmusic, Joe) as well as Mediahuis (Nostalgie, NRJ), network provider Norkring, the Flemish Government, DAB+ radio stations, manufacturers, retailers and the automotive sector.
“The campaign ran in collaboration with Flemish DAB+ stations (Family Radio, Roxx, Top Radio, VBRO, VBRO Evergreen and Radio Maria), and placed emphasis on DAB+, audio quality and the number of radio stations now available,” said Daan De Scheemaeker of Digital Radio Vlaanderen.
DAB+ has grown organically in Flanders, with 25 stations now. Dominique Lievijns, chief sales and marketing officer with network operator Norkring, announced that 12 more stations would be launched on national multiplex before next summer.
In addition, Digital Radio Vlaanderen also revealed the results of an audience (2,000 people aged 12+) survey, carried out by ratings agency Ipsos. Twenty one percent of the audience listens to digital radio in Flanders, of which a modest 3 percent via DAB+ (streaming: 12 percent, digital TV: 6 percent). Nationwide, some 540,000 DAB+ receivers were sold for domestic or automotive use.
“The Week van de Digitale Radio promoted DAB+ on a wide range of media, TV, print, focusing on the power of radio – a medium celebrating its 100 years and looking ahead with DAB+,” explained An Caers, radio director at Medialaan.
“For us, DAB+, is a means to an end, allowing us to serve the audience with a broader musical choice, like with our recently launched Joe 70ies and Joe 80ies channels on DAB+.”
Meanwhile, in the French-speaking South of Belgium, Vice-President and Media Minister of the Walloon Government, Jean-Claude Marcourt invited both public and commercial radio stations to officially kick off DAB+ on Nov. 15.
In Brussels and Wallonia, this launch of two DAB+ networks (four provincial multiplexes) for a nine-month trial period will bring DAB+ broadcasts to all of the RTBF’s radio channels, including seven channels for VivaCité in addition to commercial stations Antipode, Bel RTL, DH Radio, FUN Radio, Nostalgie, Maximum FM, Must FM, NRJ, Radio Contact and Sud Radio.
“After having tested a first series of transmitters, DAB+ coverage will rapidly expand in the months to come, with new radio stations becoming available next year,” said Nicolas Bresou, project manager DAB+ at maRadio.be, the platform for the public and private radio sector in Wallonia. “Contrary to Flanders, where Norkring manages DAB+ transmissions, RTBF puts in place the transmitter network here,” he said.
“The upgrade to digital radio is historical for us,” said Media Minister Marcourt. “In doing so we enter the top league of European nations in offering a free and high-quality service to the public. We have cleared financial resources for the transmission-infrastructure of public and private stations. In addition, a new budget will support independent stations in their mutation to DAB+.”