At the time of Eureka! going to print the consultation on whether to include DAB+ as part of the French digital radio standard is closing. Once again the French market is looking at the technology standard and asking for feedback and recommendations on which part of the DAB family of standards the French digital radio industry can use. Currently DMB audio is the only part of the standard allowed in France although as one family all parts can sit happily together on the multiplex.
This new twist in the tale of French digital radio comes after months of public announcements from the French regulator, the CSA pushing for the official launch of digital radio. As early as February, when the trial licenses for RNT Lyon were renewed and further trials were on-air in Paris, Marseille, Nantes and Loire-Atlantique, the CSA announced 2012 would be the year of digital radio services officially on-air. In order to do this the smaller broadcasters association (SIRTI) took the CSA to court to demand that it release the tenders issued three years ago and which to date have been blocked. The CSA was legally instructed to fulfil its obligations to those broadcasters who had won licenses in the 2009 tender allowing digital radio services to finally go on air in Paris, Marseille and Nice. A flurry of headlines ensued in the French press ‘CSA to dig up digital radio’ referring to the oft said ‘DAB is dead’, hardly the case given that DAB digital radio is now on-air or regulated in all the major European markets.
It was also announced in May, alongside the close of the consultation on the technical standard, that the CSA plans to open a call for digital radio licences in a further 20 largest cities. A calendar for tenders was released starting this June and ending in April 2013 and it is predicted that the first of these service will be on by the end of the year. This in turn would account for 62% digital radio coverage of the French population, triggering the 2009 French law on inclusion of digital radio in all products. This law was amended in 2010 to commence when 20% coverage of the population was reached.
Throughout this period the major commercial broadcasters in France have continued to be vocal in their condemnation of the DAB standard with the old arguments surfacing – ‘it’s an old technology’, ‘receivers are too expensive’, ‘the cost of dual transmission’, ‘no revenue opportunities’, ‘what about in-car receivers?’. All arguments which the German market is steadily silencing critics on and in some quarters in France, where trials are on-going, it has been proved that these objections are no longer valid.
France has had a chequered history with the launch of digital radio with a couple of false starts. This time however the signs look good; trials are already on-air, consumer campaigns have started, receivers are in the larger retail outlets and the support of the CSA and the push from the smaller broadcasters all show there is a commitment to digitalising the French radio industry. And, in yet another twist on the road to digital it was announced that the Deputy-Mayor of Nantes, supporter of the digital radio trial held there, has been announced as France’s new Prime Minister… the revolution may just get bigger!
WorldDMB brought together commercial broadcasters and digital radio experts to share their experiences of going digital at a workshop ‘The Digital Radio Experience’ held during the French radio industry event Le Radio 2012 which took place in Paris, 5-7 February, 2012
WorldDMB Project Office