A strategic step for saving DAB radio and a struggle for survival
According to a new EU Kodex directive all new passenger cars must be equipped to receive "terrestrial digital radio" from December 21, 2021. The Swedish government is now forced to include the rule in the Vehicle Regulation. However, the three major Swedish radio broadcasters now want the requirement to apply to FM receivers as well. But things are not always the way they look ..
In Sweden, a switch to digital radio is not currently being considered, the three companies stated in a joint press release. It is important to remember that because FM is well established in Sweden and will stay on for a long time, the government now need to extend the requirement to include FM receivers in cars, the broadcasters write. Similar demands have also been made by broadcasters in Finland this autumn (but there is no DAB radio).
In their referral submissions, the broadcasters also mention readiness for their demands on FM receivers in cars. The public broadcaster’s FM network reaches 99.8 percent of the country and is required in order to reach the public with VMA (Emergency Alert Warning).
Both FM and DAB + are needed in Swedish cars, the companies believe.
Read more of the radio companies' press release in Radionytt
In its referral submission, SR writes that a transition to digital distribution of radio in the terrestrial network requires both a political position and public funding. In June 2015, the Government stated that it is not relevant to make such a transition. The dominant technology for audio broadcasting in Sweden will for a foreseeable period of time be FM (analogue frequency modulated terrestrial broadcasts in band II, 87.5–108 MHz).
Introducing a requirement for digital radio receivers in cars without a corresponding requirement for FM radio receivers does not take into account the situation of the radio market in Sweden.
Did the radio companies forget about the future and Connected Cars?
The broadcasters are following the example of broadcasters in Finland which made a similar statement regarding requirement of FM in cars (There is no present or planned DAB broadcasting in Finland ).
The fact that the radio companies are now at the forefront of the FM radio right now with such great emphases might be also strategically motivated. The truth is that in a couple of years the DAB system is threatened to become completely marginalized. In addition to FM, the Internet will the be a global main platform for radio, mainly thanks to smartphones and the development of mobile broadband 4G and 5G.
The prediction is that almost all new passenger cars in 2021 will be connected. Then the radio is already integrated into the car's information and entertainment system type Apple CarPlay. DAB has no added value for the owner of an already connected car in terms of diversity of program choices or sound quality.
The launch of test broadcasts with terrestrial digital radio with 5G Broadcast has also made DAB advocates more nervous about the future.
It should also be noted that there are currently no serious plans in any country to discontinue FM radio. The only exception is Norway, which closed its national FM networks with negative consequences for NRK's credibility as well as for Bauer's and NENT's profitability.
Although the EBU and other DAB promoters have succeeded in lobbying this provision in the European Parliament, there are no plans within the EU to phase out FM, which unlike DAB is a world standard in more than 200 countries.
The broadcasting companies demanding FM radio requirement by EU thus constitute a paradoxical attempt to save the DAB system. But it is obvious that the broadcasters today are well aware that online radio in cars will become a global standard. Without FM and/or DAB in the cars they will lose a competing edge as the listener in the car will rather have access to an almost unlimited and unregulated choice of radio and music channels online.