Apologies for the interruption to my normal radio sector analyses, but I wanted to let you know that a book of my writings about DAB radio was published this week. It collects together 99 of the essays that have appeared in this blog over the last two years concerning the digital radio switchover issue in the UK. The period between 2008 and 2010 was a critical ‘make or break’ time for DAB which ended with the legislation of the Digital Economy Act. But have any of the committees, consultations, working groups, reports and recommendations from this period made any difference to the slowing take-up of DAB in the UK? No.
“I’ve been surprised by how many of my peers at the golf club have adopted internet radio and some of those are people who can’t even get a decent FM signal, never mind DAB. The key issue with DAB and the migration to FM is going to be dictated by the speed at which at the motor car can be migrated, and there is no easy solution. If the migrations takes 20 or 25 years to go as it did from FM, the future is just possibly wi-fi.”
Digital radio switchover seems doomed and the only people still talking it up are those who have a direct stake in it, either through their financial investments, or from earning their living from talking it up. Because the UK started on the DAB switchover trail earlier than other European countries, our experiences have relevance to markets that started later on the DAB journey.
This week, it has been interesting to see the interest my book has spurred in markets such as Norway, Denmark and Italy where, like the UK, DAB is still being pursued despite widespread consumer indifference. In Norway, a news story about the local receiver market appeared in the newspaper Aftenposten headlined ‘Customers do not want DAB: FM is still selling like hotcakes’. The buyer at a Norwegian electronics store said that DAB was already a flop and he was quoted: “So far, this year, according to industry sales statistics to which I have access, only one DAB radio has been sold for in-car installation”.
Many countries are awaiting some kind of government decision as to whether digital radio switchover will still be a policy goal. In Norway, a government report on the DAB issue is to be published later this year. In France, a government report on the financial model for digital radio was meant to have been unveiled this week, but was not. In Germany, the 21 September deadline by which state and commercial radio was meant to have submitted a joint plan for government funding to re-launch a national DAB+ multiplex passed without agreement and has had to be extended to 15 December 2010. One German report said “it is highly doubtful whether the negotiating parties will agree by the [new] deadline.” Another report said: “experts suspect that this is the last chance for DAB+.”
In Italy, radio stations that have started broadcasting in DAB and DRM are angry at the lack of digital radio receivers in their shops and have turned to UK manufacturer Pure Digital for help. One Italian report asked: “Do people feel the need to replace their old FM radios? Especially in the era of the smartphone, internet radio and applications, the answer seems obvious.” In Spain, the existing DAB radio licences that were initially issued for a ten-year period in 2000 have just been extended to fifteen years, in the face of widespread consumer apathy towards DAB radio.
It is evident that the digital radio switchover issue continues to generate a lively debate in many European countries. My hope is that our experience in the UK can help other countries make an informed decision about the adoption of a realistic plan for ‘the future of radio’ in their own markets.
DAB DIGITAL RADIO: LICENSED TO FAIL
Radio Books, London
ISBN 978 0 9564963 0 0
paperback 297×210 mm, 314 pages
1 October 2010
book excerpts here
more information http://www.radiobooks.org
available from online book retailers including Amazon
Book plug over.