Thursday 16 April 2015

National Audit Devastating for DAB Radio Introduction in Sweden

Report envisages major risks with a transition. Reasonable to retain FM radio.
The proposed transition to the (terrestrial) digital radio DAB+ platform entails major risks and will probably not be profitable from a wider societal viewpoint. The best choice is to retain the FM network, according to the national auditor Margareta Åberg. 

The consultation round by the Ministry of Culture concluded on March 23. There were several decisive objections from the institutions most qualified to make a judgment on the proposal for a transition to DAB 2016-2022. Adding to this an extensive and critical report was presented yesterday to the Parliament by Riksrevisionen (The National Audit Office). The Ministry of Culture is expected to take a final decision regarding this issue next month. The independent analysis by the National Audit Office makes it probable that 20 years of efforts to introduce DAB in Sweden will come to a definite end.

A short summary of the findings in the report Digital Radio - why and for whom? 

1. The government is not properly prepared for a transition. 

In spite of several inquiries and studies the government has not prepared a sufficient and solid case for a transition to digital radio. The government has not analyzed a transition from a wider cost perspective to society. The radio industry actors with their own interests in retaining terrestrial radio have to a large extent themselves been able to define the problems and to investigate and propose a possible transition. 

2. Listeners' perspective is lacking. 

A risk with a transition to DAB+ is that the government will introduce a new standard for radio listening which is not asked for neither needed by the listeners. Replacing in-car radios will be a large and costly challenge as there will be 3,6 milllion cars without a DAB+ receiver 2022.

3. Technical assessments are inadequate. 

There is a risk that the geographical coverage for DAB+ after closing the FM network is overestimated. Riksrevisionen says while it is important to maintain a broadcast network which does not depend on Internet or mobile broadband the FM network meets such demands. Being robust and in principle reaching all citizens it meets the emergency alert requirements 

4. Economic aspects are ignored.

A transition to DAB+ is probably not economically profitable from a wider societal perspective even after 50 years of operation. To abandon the FM band and transfer to DAB+ implies that the government will leave a frequency space (Band II) without any alternative use, On the other hand Band III will have a high alternative value in the future (for television).

The audit is very extensive, starting in May 2014 in close cooperation with the official institutions involved in the digital radio process; the Ministry of Culture, the Telecom Authority, the Media Authority, Swedish public radio and the state owned broadcast provider Teracom. Interviews have also been made abroad; in Finland and Norway as well as with the EBU. Economic and technical experts from major universities have also been involved.

Riksrevisionen has a unique function as it audits the whole chain of executive power. Riksrevisionen is an independent organization under the Riksdag and is independent in relation to those being audited. It carries out both performance and financial audits.

Download the full report (80 pages, in Swedish)