Tuesday 21 May 2019

49 Shades of Grey - Why DAB Will Not Survive as Platform for Future Radio

Market and technical deficiencies presented in a new report
The Public Service Council in Sweden has released a 17 page report by a Nordic Radio Workgroup  DAB facts 2019 - Crucial problems and disadvantages with the digital system DAB  for terrestrial sound broadcasting. This report puts a finger on a sore point. As a transmission and listening platform DAB is in many parts inferior to other systems as the global standard FM or the global expanding mobile and fixed broadband platform. For the first time most DAB deficiencies and shortfalls are presented in an international report  independent from any stakeholder. 

DAB was invented in Munich in the 1980’s and was first introduced in the UK, Norway and Sweden in 1995. Today there are still few countries where the system is a major listening platform. After a period of twenty-five years with experience of DAB the system is still struggling for success. This verifies the strong global position of analogue FM broadcasting and the exceptionally fast growth of digital radio over the Internet. In view of the rapid uptake of smartphones it is clear that this development cannot be challenged by the DAB system as long as a free market prevails.  

The DAB system has so far not been introduced commercially in any free market country without government intervention, state subsidies and public funding. In Norway, the DAB stakeholders were able to set and control the agenda for the political decision to replace national FM with DAB+.  Even obvious problems were ignored and critical questioning was met by silence.

Other aspects such as power and career positioning, lack of relevant knowledge, prestige or corruption might enable a technical system to be established in some countries. In spite of the technical or economic shortcomings of the system. Such problems have been fully or partly concealed when the DAB system is presented by resourceful lobby organisations to politicians responsible for media policy as well as to journalists. The WorldDAB organisation, the EBU and other stakeholders still have not told the true story - only their own - about DAB.

Already in 2016 Public Service Council warned that "the European public service broadcasting sector risks losing credibility by a DAB radio fiasco". Some public broadcasters notably BBC and Swedish SR now seem to have paid qualified attention to such risks. However, the DAB project in Norway is heading for failure which might tarnish the NRK image.

A decision to replace a broadcasting structure should be taken based on analysis of all available data and research. Presented in the report are analyzed facts related to the market and the listeners as well as technical problems. In addition a further technical overview and analysis of specific problems was compiled in 2018-2019 by the Public Service Council experts desk in cooperation with broadcast engineers in Norway and Sweden. 
The Public Service Council in Sweden is a non-profit NGO independent from any political and industry interest.  -  DAB - "Digital Audio Broadcasting" - is one of six major systems for terrestrial digital radio.

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