by Jean-Marc Dubreuil, WorldDAB
In 2018, radio reached a tipping point in France. Following the launches of DAB+ in the cities of Lyon and Strasbourg, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) announced on 27 December 2018 that 21.3% of the French population was now covered by DAB+, triggering a French receiver law requiring at the latest all new radio receivers sold in 18 months to include DAB+ capabilities. This article gives an overview of the major developments that took place in France in recent months including the launches of DAB+ in Strasbourg and Lyon, and the CSA’s triggering of the French receiver law that will lay the foundation for a digital future for radio in France.
DAB+ has been a hot topic in France for a number of years. In 2014, DAB+ was officially launched for the first time in France, in the cities of Paris, Marseille and Nice. In June 2018, Lille became the fourth metropolitan area in France to have launched regular DAB+ services, and was subsequently followed by launches of DAB+ in the Alsace and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes later in the year.
Launches in Strasbourg and Lyon mark key milestone for DAB+ in France
On 5 December 2018, DAB+ was launched in Strasbourg and the departments of the Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin, with a total of 43 DAB+ radio stations going on air across the Alsace region. On the same day, DAB+ was launched in city of Lyon with 46 DAB+ radio stations going live in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. These launches marked a significant milestone in the development of DAB+ in France, with over 20% of the population of the country now having access to DAB+ radio.
CSA triggers French receiver law
On 19 December 2018, the French regulator CSA announced that following the launches of DAB+ in Strasbourg and Lyon, 21.3% of the population of France was covered by DAB+, therefore triggering the French receiver law requiring all new radio receivers to be equipped with DAB+ capabilities. The law in question will be panned out in three phases over a period of 18 months – new receivers able to display multimedia content are to integrate DAB+ capabilities within three months, while all radio receivers have 12 months to include digital capabilities, aside from in-car receivers which have 18 months to comply with the law.
Major private broadcasters on board with DAB+
Aside from the community and independent commercial broadcasters’ longstanding support of DAB+, leading private radio groups have now also turned their attention to digital radio. Significantly, all major French private radio groups – including radio stations RTL, RTL2, Fun Radio (M6 Group), RMC, BFM (NextRadio group), Europe 1, RFM, Virgin Radio (Lagardère Group), NRJ, Chérie, Nostalgie, Rire et Chansons (NRJGroup) amongst others – favourably responded to the national call for tenders launched by the CSA at the end of 2018, recognising the potential of broadcasting in DAB+, including benefiting from improved signal continuity and providing listeners with an overall improved listening experience.
French regulation in line with wider EU requirements
The French receiver law triggered by the CSA means that France is now ahead of its European counterparts in leading the implementation of DAB+, as the EU adopted in November 2018, a new European Electronic Communications Code requiring all new cars sold in the European Union to be equipped with digital radio receivers. EU member states now have a two-year period to present their own respective national regulations reflecting the directive in question, with France having already triggered its own law which will see all new cars released in France 18 months from now equipped with radios that include DAB+.
70% population coverage by 2020
Despite the relatively slow start it first experienced, DAB+ has hit the ground running in France and it is expected that by 2020, 70 percent of the French territory will be covered by DAB+ radio. Following the launches in Strasbourg and Lyon in December 2018, DAB+ is expected to launch in over 15 cities in coming months, including Toulouse, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Pau, La Rochelle, Dijon, Besançon, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne, Annecy, Chambéry, Annemasse, Toulon, Avignon, Tours, Orléans and Poitiers. Calls for applications for the remaining 30 percent will also be launched in 2020, with launches planned for 2023. The future of radio in France is bright, and it’s digital.