Sunday 20 January 2013

Council objects to DAB for public service

In a Swedish government consultation the Public Service Council has objected to a commission proposal to support the public service company - Sveriges Radio (SR) - to go DAB with state funding.

The council says that the FM radio is a world standard while DAB is a marginal technology used in a limited number of countries mainly in the richest part of Western Europe. FM Radio is well established in all of the 200 countries in the world.  Against all rumours no nation has yet decided on a “switch-off” date for the FM band.  Adding to this there are more than 30.000 digital radio channels on the Internet. There is no proof that the bandwidth for radio will not be enough.

The council suggest that Sweden should follow the example of Finland and abandon all plans to introduce an aging DAB system first introduced in Sweden 1995. Instead Sweden should together with other European countries, and also emerging economies as Brazil and India, introduce a more transparent and less costly, complementary technology as DRM+. This will keep the present broadcasting structure stabile and predictable; a modern FM-network together with digital radio on the Internet. Thus, the society and its taxpayers will avoid venturing into big and risky financial investments which cannot be undone.

The council shares the commission assessment that DAB is not a proper technology for local sound broadcasting and that FM cannot be abandoned before a solution for community radio has been found. Similar assessments have been made in Denmark, Norway and the UK.

According to the commission there will be advantages for the commercial radio sector to go DAB. However, to enable this public service radio must lead the way as SR represents almost two thirds of all radio listening in Sweden. SR will need extra financing approx. 12 million euros annually in order to start broadcasting on DAB.

The council agrees with the official policy of the present government that the introduction of digital radio should be “market driven” as well as that the consumer interest should be a guideline.  If the commercial broadcasters believe that DAB radio will become profitable they should invest by own means. Neither the government nor the public service company should take any responsibility for this as long as there is no proven demand additional public service channels (to the present four national channels).

Any additional support for the public service radio should be concentrated on the development of content (production, programmes and personnel).  Primary for the news and current affairs channel P1 and the P4 with local windows.  The council fears that a costly involvement in the DAB system very likely will limit such support and thus might damage the future public service radio.  (Source: Public Service Council)