Sunday 24 February 2013

Gloomy prospects for DAB in Sweden

Consultation without convincing support
The government consultation regarding the proposals of 2012 Public service commission generated a total of 131 responses to the Ministry of Culture. The proposal to let the public service radio company get financing in order to go DAB+ and closing the FM band were commented upon by one fourth of the responses. Only four respondents have observed that it is not only a case of “digital radio” but also establishing a new broadcasting system in a separate new frequency band besides the FM band.

Reviewing the responses closely and weighing in competence related to the issue the government could hardly justify funding or supporting the public service radio to establish a DAB-system as well as trying to close the FM band.
 Positive for a transition to DAB+ were public service Sveriges Radio and the transmission company Teracom (which is the foremost stakeholder of implementing the DAB-system in Sweden). Positive but reserved were the other public service companies
Sveriges Television and Utbildningsradion. However, UR did not see DAB/DAB+ as the given choice of digital system.

The commercial radio sector did not show any enthusiasm and will not invest in a digital radio before the government will substantially lower the present concession fees for FM.

Very negative for a digital transition with DAB+ is Post- och telestyrelsen (PTS). The telecom authority is Sweden’s foremost expert authority in the radio field.  PTS sees two major flaws in the commission proposals; no presentation or proof of consumer demand and need of digital radio has been presented. And how a technical transition will function for the consumers and how long time it would take.

According to PTS the FM-network is functioning well and Internet is a complement. On the government’s Digital agenda 90 % of Swedish households and companies should have access to 100 Mb/s broadband, which give good prospects for Internet radio. It is noted that FM is the world radio standard which no country in the world has decided to close the 87,5-108 MHz band.

A platform of independent radio companies and technically separated transmitters (outside multiplexes) ensure great flexibility and robustness in today’s analogue sound broadcasting. PTS also suggest that Band III (174-240 MHz) rather be used for future television than for radio (DAB). PTS will continue to develop FM radio in order to expand the space for the broadcasters and enhance the usage of the radio spectrum.

Also very negative to a transition to DAB and closing the FM band are the Public service council, Stockholm University of Drama and the Community Radio Association of Sweden. PTS and the Public Service Council highlighted DRM+ on the FM band as an alternative solution for digitalisation with Teracom opposing such a choice.

Other responding authorities and organisations only marked a positive attitude to “digitalisation of radio” without getting into any details as consumer demand, technical choices or economy.