Friday 5 June 2020

Will Digitalization Be the Downfall of Radio in Russia?

New government argument against DAB radio
Russian media writes that the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media is categorically opposed to digitalization of radio. This could mean the end of the radio industry, says  deputy minister Maxut Shadayev. 

If you digitize the radio in Russia, new radio stations will emerge as mushrooms. This has a huge impact on the advertising market, which is already limited and divided between existing radio stations whose revenues are not very lucrative today, according to the minister.

But Voice of Russia has been on DRM for years - on shortwave.

The government fears that if many new radio stations are granted permission, the advertising market will be further divided and this will mean that no station at all will be able to finance its operations. Thus, the radio market will not develop rather collapsing due to financial problems.

The Ministry held a meeting on 17 April 2018 in Moscow at the time of the State Commission for Radio Frequencies (GKRC) when the possibility of deploying DAB+ was discussed, where appropriate and dependent on availability of spectrum. DAB+ has since been approved as a technical standard for digital radio in Russia, along with other European standards.

The mass media were added to the list of companies at the end of May that are "affected" by the Corona crisis. But the Deputy Minister killed all hope of the mass media on state aid in connection with the crisis, according to Kaliningrad-Domizil Information Agency.

In Russia, both DAB and DRM have been on the table. The WorldDAB has been on several lobbying rounds to Moscow. However, DRM30 has been used for many years for the shortwave broadcasts from Voice of Russia. Also, as in India, the benefits of using DRM30 for digital medium wave have also been seen thanks to its potentially vast geographical reach. DAB has so far been rejected mainly because of the limited range relative to FM (and DRM+). Also the DAB system will be the most expensive investment.

Given Russia's long-standing commitment to the DRM system, it is likely that the Deputy Minister regarding ”Digital Radio” here refers to DAB+, which can offer significantly more channels/stations per transmitter (multiplex) than competing systems. It is also possible that Moscow has observed the DAB radio fiasco in Norway where about half of the 30 DAB channels have less than 2% or no listeners at all.

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