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French-Speaking Belgium Eyes Updated Media Decree

Revises analog radio scheme and makes room for DAB+

The government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation has amended a draft decree encompassing audiovisual media services in French-speaking Belgium.

The text, which still needs to be approved by the Belgian Parliament, but according to Media Minister Jean-Claude Marcourt, should be applied “as soon as possible,” pushes for a new analog frequency plan as well as the deployment of DAB+ digital radio. It will also permit radio stations to simulcast when transitioning toward digital to allow listeners to gradually migrate to digital reception.

“DAB+ technology is essential for listening quality,” said Minister Marcourt in a statement from RTBF. “It is also a great opportunity that leads to increased content offering. This means more stations, quality sound and access to real multimedia content.”

In addition, the text is designed to ensure the region’s radio landscape diversity and to “avoid an excessive concentration of radio stations within a few large groups, private or public.” It also redefines the way in which to determine whether a radio station has a dominant position in the market, and will now apply “the criterion of the cumulative potential audience for stations broadcasting in either analog and/or digital.”

The region’s regulatory authority, Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, will be responsible for evaluating this pluralism on a regular basis, at least every two years.

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For independent radio stations, the new text eases compliance monitoring of their legal obligations and reduces administrative burden in order to better reflect the reality of these stations, which often operate on a voluntary basis. It adds that, due to the costs of digital switchover, they will receive public financial support to ensure this transition.

The decree also makes some changes to the CSA, whose advisory board has been revised and its mission rethought to better reflect the present broadcasting landscape.