2016 was a successful year for digital radio with strong progress in several DAB markets.
“Norway is certainly one of the headlines from the last year, with its FM switch-off due to start just 11 days into 2017,” said Patrick Hannon, President, WorldDAB. “We’ve also seen strong commitment to DAB+ in Germany, with ARD funding tripled, strong backing from Federal and Länder politicians and a second national multiplex on the way. I’m also very pleased to hear the news from France that 96 stations, including three public service stations, have been approval to launch in Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg.”
Across the rest of Europe, Switzerland is preparing to start Digital Switchover in 2020, the Netherlands is seeing very healthy growth in the adoption of DAB+, and network coverage has been extended in Italy and Belgium (with a full federal launch expected in 2018). At the same time, more and more cars include DAB+ radio as standard – and we have also seen the first smartphone, the LG Stylus 2 DAB+, launched with DAB fitted as standard.
“It’s been an exciting year, with activity in many territories,” says Graham Dixon, Head of Radio at EBU. “For me, and it is difficult to choose a single highlight, the speedy implementation in Slovenia in September was amazing and demonstrated that this need not involve decades of agonising.”
In Asia Pacific, new countries are trialling DAB+, others are extending coverage and digital listening in Australian continues to grow thanks to extended coverage.
“Myanmar has just announced they are starting a DAB+ trial, in Indonesia, RRI has built its first dedicated DAB+ studio and around 3 million people are now covered in Jakarta,” said Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia and WorldDAB Asia Pacific Chair. “We’ve also seen growing interest from across the region, with 35 countries represented earlier this month at a DAB+ workshop in KL. For next year, we need to work on improving receiver availability in Jakarta and I’d like to establish a firm date with ASEAN leaders for an ASEAN think tank.”
Helping developing markets will be a key focus area in 2017, with cross-country collaboration key to speeding up the process. “We need a European vision as a way of accelerating the uptake of digital receivers,” says Patrick Hannon. “One approach is through regulation which requires new receivers to have both digital and FM capability, and a European vision would be a significant boost to markets looking at digital radio trials.”
When it comes to digital receivers, the entry of devices using Artificial Intelligence, such as Amazon Echo, has added a new attractive dimension to the consumer device market according to Graham Dixon. “They are highly attractive, but by providing radio via streaming, they cannot guarantee robust reception and raise deeper questions about gatekeepers – how services will be presented and prioritised, or even excluded in the future,” he said.
In our next feature, we look at the 2017 wish list for DAB and predictions for the future.