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Sweden: Council Opposes DAB for Public Radio

The country’s Public Service Council says DRM+ is a better alternative

Sweden’s Public Service Council has objected to a commission proposal that would support public broadcaster Sveriges Radio’s switch to DAB using state funding.

According to the council, FM radio is a world standard, in contrast to DAB, which it considers to be a “marginal technology” primarily used in the richest part of Western Europe, whereas FM is established worldwide. Additionally, there are currently more than 30,000 digital radio channels broadcast online, it says, and there is no proof that the current bandwidth for radio will be insufficient.

The council suggests that Sweden should follow Finland’s example and abandon plans to introduce DAB, which was rolled out in Sweden in 1995, and that the country should introduce “a more transparent and less costly, complementary technology, such as DRM+.” Other European countries, as well as India and Brazil, the council points out, are currently rolling out infrastructure to support this technology.

The council also believes DAB is not suitable for local broadcasting, and that FM cannot be abandoned before an alternative for community radio has been found. Authorities in Denmark, Norway and the U.K., it explains, have also come to similar conclusions.

The commission admits that a switchover to DAB would be beneficial for the commercial radio sector, but it declares that because SR represents approximately two-thirds of radio listening in Sweden, public service radio would need additional financing of about €12 million annually in order to start broadcasting on DAB. The switchover would also add the cost parallel distribution of FM and DAB+ for many years, it adds.

The current government’s official policy is that the introduction of digital radio should be “market driven,” and if commercial broadcasters believe that DAB radio will become profitable, they should invest in it themselves. Until there is public demand for more channels in addition to the current four national channels, the commission says the government and the public service radio company should not invest in DAB.

The council points out that additional support for public service radio should be concentrated on production, programming and personnel, especially for SR’s news and current affairs channels.