Digital radio DAB/DRM to be developed on its own track
A South African government ICT Review Report SA states that regarding digital radio the media regulator ICASA 2013 decision not to make a determination on the switch off of AM and/or FM signals must be endorsed, and that the licensing of DRM and DAB services must be facilitated in parallel.
The report is outlining recommended policy approaches proposed by the ICT Policy Review Panel, to the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services., It points towards the development of a new, and forward looking Integrated ICT Policy for South Africa. There are 168 recommendations in the detailed report, which focus on
- Regulatory Principles and Approaches
- Infrastructure and Services
- The Digital Society
- Audio and Audio-visual Content Services
- Industry Growth
- Institutional Frameworks
This represents just over two years of intensive research, discussion, debate, and public consultations. The Panel has provided an integrated approach for future policy, such that the long term 2030 vision will indeed be achieved.
The 1998 White Paper on Broadcasting recognised developments in digital radio (DAB and DRM) rather than audio services on the DTT platform) and recommended that a Digital Advisory Council report on this. Given ITU timelines for migration to digital terrestrial television, the focus of Government has been predominantly on developing policy for the television sector. This does not mean that digital radio has been neglected, and there have been ongoing discussions about DAB and DRM between government, the regulator and industry forums. Trials of digital radio services are currently being undertaken by the NAB and Sentech.
The Panel notes that:
• Unlike television, the ITU has not made it mandatory for radio to migrate to digital radio transmission.
• It has therefore been left up to individual governments to decide on approaches to digital radio and whether or not to migrate to the new platform.
• ICASA in its 2013 Terrestrial Broadcasting Frequency Plan indicated that a switch-off date for AM and FM transmission in South Africa would not be set, though it stated that digital audio broadcasting would be an additional audio service available.
The Panel recommends that:
• The ICASA decision not to make a determination on the switch off of AM and/or FM signals be endorsed, and that the licensing of DRM and DAB services must be facilitated in parallel.
• Government, together with other stakeholders, must in the meantime focus on trialling technologies, developing a licensing framework, setting aside spectrum, encouraging take-up of receivers (in motor vehicles and in houses) and actively promoting awareness of the technology.
• ICASA must establish a standard stipulating that all imported devices should have digital radio receivers.