The organisation that funds public radio in Germany has rejected a request for €30m from state broadcasters to develop DAB broadcasting between 2009 and 2012, and has rejected an additional request for €12m to fund digital switchover. Following its meeting on 15 July, KEF announced that the funds for DAB development “will not be released because substantial elements of the criteria agreed previously with broadcasters had not been met and the viability of the projects could not be demonstrated.” According to Follow The Media, which broke the story online today, more than €200m of public money has already been spent developing DAB broadcasting in Germany.
In April 2008, twelve criteria had been agreed between KEF and the broadcasters that would need to be met for funds to be released for digital radio projects:
· Concrete agreements from public and private broadcasters to launch digital radio services, with a rollout plan
· Statements regarding the content of these digital radio services and their value to listeners as a nationwide offering, compared to existing FM stations
· Plans for added value services, such as Visual Radio, TPEG traffic data and podcasts
· Evidence of the extent of DAB usage, both in Germany and abroad
· Statements from manufacturers regarding their DAB radio receivers, delivery dates and retail prices
· Statements on the future of FM broadcasting
· Statements on the marketing strategy and necessary budgets for DAB
· Plans for the development of DAB broadcast infrastructure in metropolitan areas and their service quality
· Total costs of the proposed projects
· Implementation time of the proposed projects
· Milestones to be met in the implementation of the project, with KEF auditing their achievement
· Compliance with the KEF checklist and responses to additional KEF questions
At its meeting last week, KEF decided that “the criteria had still largely not been met”. A forecast of the total cost of implementing DAB in Germany was not offered to KEF, although transmission costs for the period 2009 to 2020 were estimated by state radio to be €163.6m. However, KEF was told that FM radio broadcasts could not be ended until digital platforms accounted for 90% of radio listening, which was anticipated by 2020. The public radio companies expected to make a further application to KEF for funds of approximately €300m to complete the switchover from FM to DAB beyond 2012.
The earlier decision by Germany’s private radio sector not to invest further funds in DAB development weighed heavily on the KEF decision, as it concluded that FM switch-off would be “unthinkable” without the participation of commercial radio in the DAB platform. KEF also made it clear that the financial savings anticipated from the ending of FM/DAB dual transmission were a pre-requisite for further investment in DAB, as was “a minimum diversity of programme offerings significantly above those currently offered on FM”.
Follow The Media reported: “There must be no more time wasted with this project now,” said media spokesperson Thomas Jarzombek of the CDU party in North Rhine-Westphalia to Wolbeck-Münster (July 17). “Instead, all the resources are now directed to the internet. …. After the exit of private radio stations and the rejection by the KEF, digital radio on DAB+ died.”