DAB radio in Spain has been a disaster, not least for those commercial broadcasters who invested in new technology and distribution contracts, but who have generated no additional listeners or revenues. “Zero,” said Agustin Ruiz de Aguirre, technical director of Cadena SER. “The audience is zero.” He explained that a non-existent audience generates no revenues or profits because “who would want to advertise on a medium that does not deliver any consumers?”
Spanish broadcasting law requires stations that embarked upon DAB to continue broadcasting for the duration of their licences, regardless of whether anyone is listening or not. Ruiz de Aguirre said that all the commercial broadcasters are united with a single goal: to stop having to broadcast on DAB. To date, the government has not relented, though the current licences end in 2010 and 2011.
“I do not think analogue radio switch-off will happen in either the short or medium term,” said Xosé Ramón Pousa, professor in the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the University de Santiago de Compostela. “In this scenario, DAB is at a dead end.”
“We are a rarity”, said Pere Vilas, who heads Spain’s drive for digital radio (and is the managing director of technology at state broadcaster RTVE). State radio has been simulcasting on DAB since 1998. Spanish broadcasting law has required a technical plan for DAB radio to be in place for the last year and a half, though nothing exists as yet. Such a plan is seen as DAB’s last chance to redeem itself in Spain.
“Work began a long time ago, even before digital television switchover,” admitted Xavier Redón, product marketing manager of transmission infrastructure provider Abertis Telecom. “But it is about to begin again.” Like DAB lobbyists elsewhere, Redón was quick to claim that the rest of Europe was already well down the road to DAB radio switchover. He asserted that, in France, all radios would have to be digital by 2013, and that Germany was creating a national DAB+ network in 2011.
Redón predicted that 2011 would be “key” to laying the groundwork for the re-launch of DAB in Spain. A glance at the website for DAB radio in Spain elicits a similarly optimistic stance. It states boldly: “Digital radio is a fact. It is not the future. It is the present.”
Until you realise that this latest news item was posted in April 2008.