Friday 16 October 2015

Last Hope Gone for DAB Radio in Sweden

Government informs the Parliament that the case is closed
The Swedish Government now has delivered to Riksdagen - the Parliament - its formal response to the National Audit Report on the issue of digital radio DAB introduction in Sweden presented in March 2015. According to the government looking into the whole picture of the consultation on an inquiry of 2014 a broad and clear support is lacking for a digital transition. The proposal for a transition from FM to DAB+ 2017-2022 is rejected and there are no plans for another inquiry into this issue.

Several objections and unsolved problems were observed in the consultation round. In short the government exemplifies that a digital transition can have an impact in the total defense system and the emergency preparedness system. Another problem is geographical coverage (as compared to the FM network). It is also unclear that there are any consumer driven demand for digital terrestrial radio.

Several objections in the consultation round which the government has based its own assessment on are the same as presented by the National Audit (which made its own inquiry).

The government says it will follow international developments regarding digital terrestrial radio (as in Norway) and may return to this issue in the future.

In its budget proposition for 2016 to Riksdagen September 21 the government has clearly stated that there will be no plans for an FM radio switch-off. Already in the end of July in a newspaper article the Minister of Culture Alice Bah Kunhke presented this upcoming decision. The announcement was met by harsh critic by the CEO of the public radio SR, as well as commercial radio networks and the EBU, but was broadly welcomed in media and by public opinion. Support for the transition plan could not be found in any newspaper.

DAB has been on the agenda in Sweden since 1991 when the public radio made its forts test transmissions in Stockholm. Since 1995 the public radio has been on DAB and later on DAB+ to and fro. 2005 the government closed the case for the first time when rejecting an FM switch-off. Presently there are pilot DAB transmissions reaching approx 35 % of the population. But few receivers have been sold over the years and there are no reports of any audience.

Sweden has now joined neighboring Finland rejecting a transition from FM to DAB+.


Still the commercial radio networks Bauer and MTG can broadcast DAB+ but there is doubt that they will go DAB alone without the public radio on the train. Also there are no proven market research that the radio audience will voluntarily give up FM radio - and online - for DAB+. Bauer and MTG have to decide before July 1 2016 according to their DAB broadcasting permits issued 2014.

Present government is a minority government with Social Democrats and the Green Party with a mandate until 2018. In case of a political change to a center-right government there are now too much skepticism among other political parties in Riksdagen for a return on to the DAB track. Meanwhile on-line radio and music on smartphones is increasing as Sweden's broadband capacity and coverage is being fully implemented via fixed (fibre) and mobile (4G) transmissions.


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