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French Radio Sets All Digital by 2013

France is phasing in rules between 2010 and 2013 that all new radios sold must receive DMB Audio signals.

PARIS Terrestrial digital radio, or radio numérique terrestre (RNT) as it is known here in France, has received a boost from the French government.

In early March, Law No. 2009-258 was adopted. Among its provisions is a timetable for the mandated introduction of digital receivers in all radios sold in France.

At the end of 2007, France adopted the Eurkea-147 based T-DMB standard as the default digital transmission scheme for the country. Originally for multimedia broadcasting, France plans to use DMB Audio to carry radio programming alongside images, data and other multimedia services.

In Article 79 of the law, dates are set for the inclusion of digital receivers in radio sets sold with in the country.

From 1 September 2010, any radio set that can display multimedia content must be equipped to tune DMB Audio signals. In-car receivers are exempt from this requirement.

From 1 September 2012, all new radio tuners must be able to receiver DMB Audio and multimedia signals. Again in-car receivers are exempt from this date.

From 1 September 2013, all radio tuners, including in-car receivers, must be able to receive DMB Audio and multimedia signals.

In the debate over the law, Deputy Patrice Martin-Lalande, vice-chairman of the commission that drafted the legislation, said: “Radio cannot remain the only media in analog. Digital switchover has a triple benefit: improved coverage, improved quality of listening and serves as a lever for development and innovation for the French digital industry.”

Migration plan
The French broadcast regulator, the Council Superior de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), has already received submissions from stations looking to migrate to digital radio and a list of licenses is expected to be released in April followed by a digital migration plan in June 2009. The plan is to include a schedule designed to ensure the total coverage of France with digital radio.

Although a 2020 date has been floated for a complete migration of analog radio to digital, nothing has been set forth definitively. Some community and local radio stations are wary of the cost and value of the digital transition and for the mean time would prefer to stay analog on FM.

Other broadcasters, such as the Breton station Littoral AM, have expressed a preference for going digital using the Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) standard for broadcasting in the AM wavebands.

France has approved use of the DRM standard for broadcasting at frequencies below 30 MHz, as well as the ETSI SDR satellite digital radio standard for use in the L band.

In addition to the digital radio receiver timeline, the new law also amends multiple existing laws to replace references to “radio and television” with the phrase “audiovisual communications” (communication audiovisuelle) or to add “audiovisual media services” (services de médias audiovisuels) alongside radio and television.