Tuesday, February 19, 2013

EBU Recommends FM Switch Off

European Broadcasting Union recommends that European countries switch off FM. The announcement was made  during EBU Digital Radio Summit in Geneva last week. Norway has already announced an FM switch off. DAB coverage in Norway is now at 84%, but will be increased to 90% by the end of the year and to 99.5% by the end of 2014. 

The EBU is impressed by Norway, and now recommends other countries to do the same; To switch off FM and replace it by DAB+

This became clear in new technical recommendations that was presented in Geneva on February 13 by Javier Sánchez Perez who is Chair of the EBU’s Strategic Programme on Digital Radio Platforms.

The recommendations, titled Digital Radio Distribution in Europe (document R138), read:   

The EBU recommends that, 

1. The needs of all radio services in a country  be  considered  when  making  plans  for  the 
digitisation of radio, including future service expansion, the available spectrum, and the cost 
effectiveness of different standards for different services; 

2. Immediate deployment be done using DAB transmission as defined in ETSI EN 300 401 with 
DAB+ services as defined in ETSI TS 102 563 for digital radio broadcasting in VHF Band III; 

3. When DAB coverage is not possible, to use DRM as defined in ETSI ES 201 980 for digital radio 
broadcasting in the frequency bands currently used for analogue radio broadcasting; 

4. Digitisation is accompanied by the deployment of enhanced features, such as text, images and 
programme guides to keep radio relevant in the digital age; 

5. Hybrid radio services are deployed with digital broadcasting systems (for example using 

6. Harmonisation in the timetable for deployment  of digital radio across Europe, including a 
target date for the switch-off of analogue  radio, would create a greater momentum and 
market take-up. 

The last point is a very strong signal. DAB+ is the clear recommendation of choice. DRM, or digital AM, is also mentioned, but only when DAB coverage is not possible, and only in the frequency bands currently used for analogue radio broadcasting (Band I and Band II that are used for FM). And DRM is rather costly.   

Radio is of vital importance

R138 is the first agreement among EBU Members on digital radio distribution. It was approved by the EBU Technical Committee two weeks ago.

The EBU also notes that 'FM radio is constrained by a lack of available spectrum in all developed markets,' and pinpoints the following:  

Radio is of vital cultural importance throughout Europe;
Radio is consumed by the vast majority of Europeans every week; 
Radio is consumed at home, at work and on the move; 
Terrestrial broadcast delivery is the only free-to-air and cost-effective method for truly mobile reception, particularly in cars.

This is a good and clear message from the EBU, which emphasizes their so called Euro-Chip concept. The name of that initiative is however awful, as I have argued earlier

But isn't all of this just nonsens? FM works just fine. Or does it? Read this blog post which contains links to yet another 18 blog posts that show why FM isn't all what it is cracked up to be