During 3 – 4 November, WorldDAB held its annual General Assembly at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London, attracting an international audience of over 200 delegates representing 24 countries, broadcasting or considering DAB.
The programme focused on three key themes; international development of DAB digital radio, opportunities provided by DAB commercial radio and DAB in cars and mobile phones.
During the two day event, delegates heard presentations from international experts and professionals representing UK, German and Dutch Governments, digital roll-out bodies, broadcasters, broadcasting regulators, supply chain companies and research agencies, all sharing their experience, achievements and goals for the future.
European collaboration needed to accelerate growth of DAB adoption
Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, UK Government Department for Culture Media and Sport and Dorothee Bär, Parliamentary State Secretary, MdB, Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) set out their shared vision for radio’s digital future emphasising their commitment to digital radio. Ed Vaizey spoke of how increasing listening figures in the UK showed how the future of radio is increasingly digital and the benefits of DAB to the listener such as more choice and improved listening quality. Dorothee Bär spoke on government commitment identifying the clear benefits to listeners, particularly drivers, who, with DAB can benefit from free-to-air traffic information services. Both emphasised the importance of working together to accelerate growth of DAB in Europe.
International Development of DAB
On day two, a Keynote speech from Digitalradio Norge CEO Ole Jorgen Tørvmark focused on the confirmed digital switchover in Norway in 2017 and the steps to ensure a successful transition. This was followed later in the day with a session covering the progress of DAB in mature, developing and emerging markets across Europe and Asia in which Thomas Saner, Senior Advisor at SRG SSR spoke of Switzerland’s planned digital switchover between 2020 and 2024. Solid progress was reported in Germany, Netherlands, UK, Denmark and Italy while Poland, France, Belgium, Czech Republic and Austria were represented as speakers detailed the steps being taken to roll-out DAB in their markets. Outside of Europe, DAB+ is well established in Australia, and a growing number of markets are embarking on trials, including South Africa, the Gulf States and Thailand.
A session on the opportunities which DAB provides for commercial radio provided case studies from the UK, Italy and Australia who illustrated how private broadcasters are developing new services, often using brand extensions, to grow audiences and generate new revenues. This was further explored later as Peter Davies, Director of Content Policy at UK media regulator Ofcom provided an update about the cost-effective solutions for small scale local broadcasters currently being trialled in the UK.
The third major focus of the event was the automotive sector with several countries reported significant progress on getting DAB into vehicles. The UK announced that nearly 75% of new vehicles are now fitted with DAB with Norway and Switzerland reporting similar figures of 63% and 60% respectively. During his presentation, Graham Johnson, Business Development Manager at Connects2 demonstrated an after-market DIY product which would offer full digital content via a smartphone.
The event also offered a dedicated area giving guests the opportunity to view DAB products and equipment and engage with a range of experts and manufacturers. Digital radios and antennas by manufacturers Connects2, Pure, DABmotion, VQ, Roberts Radio, Ruark, Aldena, Calearo and ABB were showcased along with transmission equipment by IZT, Digidia, Factum Radioscape, DikTec, AVT and software and interactive publishing system supplier, All in Media.
WorldDAB Award and elections
2015 was an election year for WorldDAB members which saw the re-election of Patrick Hannon for a second 2-year term as President. Patrick outlined WorldDAB’s priorities for the coming 12 months, with a particular focus on extending the international footprint of digital terrestrial radio and ensuring that DAB secures its position in cars and mobile handsets. A new Steering Board was also elected with new members from Germany, UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland and South Africa.
The Award for Outstanding Service to DAB was presented to Anthony Sethill, Founder and CEO Frontier Silicon in recognition of Anthony’s contribution to the growth of DAB around the world – both in terms of Frontier Silicon’s technology leadership and Anthony’s personal contribution to the development of DAB in key international markets.
On closing the event, WorldDAB President, Patrick Hannon thanked everyone for their contributions and concluded “DAB digital radio is making great progress across Europe and beyond. The Ministerial messages we have heard today set out a clear vision for the next phase of DAB’s development. International collaboration across all elements of the radio ecosystem will be the key driver of success.”
Next year’s event will be held again in November.