French Prepare for Digital Radio Launch

CSA says it will launch digital terrestrial radio in 2012
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The Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, the French audiovisual regulatory authority, has announced that it would — finally — launch digital terrestrial radio (DAB) this year, and deliver authorization to the stations that were pre-selected in 2008.

The CSA had issued a call for nominations in 2008 and chose 55 radio stations in Paris and Marseille, as well as around 40 in Nice, but nothing came of it. Another call for bids will also be launched for 20 large French cities.

The CSA goal is to reach 50 percent of the population. Since the 2007 law on the modernization of audiovisual broadcasting, the launch of digital radio has been constantly postponed due to opposition from larger private broadcasters who complained that the distribution costs were too high.

“We will never get all actors to agree on the question at the same time but there is a moment where the regulator must apply the law,” said Rachid Arhab, CSA counselor overseeing the project. “Only 30 percent of French listeners receive more than 10 radio stations. Digitization will allow everyone to benefit from as many radio stations as those listeners who are located in the largest French cities.”

Simultaneously, the CSA would like France to adopt the DAB+ norm as currently used in Germany, saying it would complement the selected but more expensive T-DMB standard.

In the midterm, digital radio will replace analog radio, and like for the television switchover last November, will necessitate households to change their radios. Meanwhile, simulcasting will exist for an undetermined amount of time.

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