Monday 8 September 2014

DAB Radio Venture Scrutinized by National Audit

Might end efforts to introduce the DAB system in Sweden
After a preliminary study since April 2014 Riksrevisionen - the Swedish National Audit Authority - has set on a review of government involvement in digital DAB radio, which is planned to replace FM radio 2022.  A central question is if the taxpayers will get their moneys' worth. Will it be efficient to constructe a new infrastructure for radio? In the preliminary study there have been indications that different alternatives are not sufficiently considered as well as the consequences for the society and the citizens.
Riksrevisionen will investigate if the government is contributing to a transition to digital radio in an efficient manner for the national economy and is meeting the needs of the citizens. The review will also provide  documentation for Riksdagen (the Parliament) regarding consequences of and alternatives to  switch-off of the FM network and a replacement with a DAB+ network.

The review will encompass also government involvement in digital radio since1995 which have been funded at high costs but with no success. The National Audit also call into question the choice of DAB+ as many now are listening on-line on mobile phones. We want to look into what the citizens need, there is a risk that we are establishing  structure which is not asked for and needed. This our inquiry will reveal, says Philippe Jolly, project director at Riksrevisionen, in an interview by the public radio company Sveriges Radio (SR).

A report will be published in March 2015. The findings might mark the definitive end of 20 years of efforts to introduce the DAB technology in Sweden. The review will encompass the public service radio comany and the state-owned broadcast provider Teracom but not private commercial companies.

The announcement has annoyed the MD of SBS Discovery Radio, which is one of the two commercial networks in Sweden. Among several allegations Staffan Rosell believes that behind this decision it is the telecom industry lobbying in order to get the frequencies. Jolly at Riksrevisionen also questions this and says to Resumé that we are non-partisan and reports only to the Parliament.

However, the telecom industry have been lobbying, quite successfully, for the 700 MHz band and has yet not shown an interest in VHF Band III  (200 MHz), which DAB radio is sharing a part of with television broadcasters.

Rosell also asserts that there are no proposals to use tax money to fund a digital transition. However, to go digital SR must borrow from the government or use the TV license fee funds. And if SR will not go DAB+ the commercial networks hardly will go for it alone while the community and local radio will retain FM.

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