Saturday, 25 September 2010

FRANCE: "In no country is digital terrestrial radio working out"

From 1 September 2010, French law required that every new radio receiver sold in France which includes a multimedia display must offer reception of digital terrestrial radio. The law had been proposed in 2007 when it was envisaged that digital radio would be up and running by now. However, in France, digital radio is barely at the starting block after several launch dates have come and gone without event.

The same French law requires that, from 1 September 2012, new radio receivers (except for car radios) must be capable of receiving digital radio. How realistic is this date when arguments continue in France even about which digital radio transmission system – T-DMB or DAB – to use? SatMag
suggested that legislation will need to be amended to account for the delay in launching digital radio.

Then, from 1 September 2013, the law requires that all radios sold in France offer the capability to receive digital terrestrial radio. This date, too, is likely to have to be changed.

French publication RadioActu
described the current state of progress:

“Presently, with the exception of experimental broadcasts such as in Nantes, digital terrestrial radio in France is stalled.”

On 30 September 2010, the initial findings of a further government report on ‘the digital future of radio’ will be published, with the detailed report examining the economic model for digital radio anticipated by 30 November 2010.

Just as in Britain, French government predictions that digital radio would be quick to take off have proven misguided. In December 2007, then Minister of Culture Christine Albanel had promised that “Christmas 2008 will be digital radio [season].” It was not. The launch was postponed to December 2009, and then to mid-2010, and now again to 2011.

At the time the law was made a statute in France in 2009, the British government had just published its Digital Britain consultation. Quentin Howard, President of the WorldDMB Forum,
said then:

“This ringing endorsement of digital radio from two major governments is a positive move which we hope will encourage other European governments to take similar steps. The bold position taken by the French government recognises the need to ensure universal availability of digital receivers and gives the radio industry a solid foundation and certainty with which to plan its digital future.“

How wrong can you be? All that the “bold” French legislation has proven is that a law is meaningless without the necessary action. This is an obvious truism. However, bureaucrats in France, the UK and elsewhere still seem to believe that merely stating that digital radio switchover will happen in some official document is enough to make it happen. Those who have long been working at the coalface of the radio industry know better. Jean-Paul Baudecroux, chairman and chief executive of French radio group NRJ,
said recently:

“In no country is digital terrestrial radio working out.”


Anonymous said...

Adding digital radio capabilities to all analog radios would surely add significantly to the costs of radios. Perhaps, this would only serve to drive consumers to spend money on other technologies, instead. I can only speak about IBOC in the U.S., but return rates are high, due to poor reception, dropouts, etc. Could France stop the import of analog-only radios, too, including SW receivers that only include analog AM/FM? Good-luck with this idea.

Anonymous said...

Be careful there. In the U.S., HD Radio is already very popular with more than 1800 FM stations, and skyrocketing sales of HD Receivers.

The success may partly be because it's totally voluntary yet most urban stations have added digital service because they understand the future upside potential (and because the cost of adding digital service is not all that much.

The difference in the cost between a digital and non-digital receiver is very small, if there is any difference at all. The volumes of receivers with HD are much higher so the modest extra cost of the HD circuitry is offset by economies of scale.

So to say "In no country is digital terrestrial radio working out" is demonstrably false.

chats said...

"Skyrocketing sales of HD Receivers"? You must be kidding. Maybe 3 million sold in, what, seven or eight years? A real gusher... You'd be better served selling your stock in iBiquity, "Anonymous," and investing in eight-track tapes. You'll sooner realize a return on investment.

Anonymous said...

DAB+ seems to be "working out" just fine in Australia.

dpomic said...

Check Australia facts. Australia DAB+ are following the UK (and other DMB) lead for hype, wishful thinking, and illusion.

“All the major commercial networks and stations have a variety of stations and new formats available on digital radio along with national public broadcasters ABC and SBS stations.”

“Permanent full power digital radio services began in Sydney, Melbourne Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in August last year [2009] and a trial began in Canberra in July [2010, and in Darwin 2010]. The industry recently released updated figures indicating there are already 523,000 people listening to digital radio across the five metropolitan markets and almost 150,000 digital radios sold.”

Total DAB+ stations are about 100, most simulcasts and some genre and jukebox stations. The much larger and less densely populated country has hundreds of regional and local commercial stations. And, hundreds of (long-established) community stations. And, the DAB+ largest commercial networks and the national public broadcasters are primary in many more cities. Total licensed stations are well over 1,000. And, a significant portion, from large to small, are AM.,

Total population of the DAB+ cities is estimated to be about 14 million—about 2/3 of the total population of Australia, which is now estimated to exceed 22 million.

DAB+ has increased broadcast efficiency and sound quality compared to DAB. Which is of benefit in the larger, denser cities. But, it’s still too little, too late overall. FM and AM aren’t going away. For most of the country—most of the stations, and their listeners—Internet radio will be there long before DAB+. Complementing the FM, AM, and DAB+—adding flexibility for receiving and sending locations and for live and on-demand listening times.

PS Why isn’t multi-standard DAB/DAB+ (promoted to Government) being offered in the UK yet—at least portables for traveling, and for non-obsolescence assurance? PURE’s newest models are DAB in the UK and DAB+ elsewhere.