Part II, dear reader, of the “What’s Going On With DAB In Germany” story. If you missed episode one yesterday (and can’t be bothered to scroll down), the scare story broke on Friday that “DAB was Dead in Germany”. The source of the story isn’t exactly clear, but it doesn’t appear to have been the KEF, as widely and inaccurately reported. (Disappointing that El Reg failed to publish either my comment on their story, nor reply to my e-mail to the journalist who wrote it. Facts obviously do get in the way of a good story on the net too).
So here’s what I’ve got to offer you on day two. This information is drawn from various reliable sources within the German radio industry, as opposed to from one over-excitable individual. There’s also a press release from the ARD (in German only, I’m afraid – babelfish is your friend).
Digital Radio in Germany
Various rumours have recently flooded the industry that the introduction of Digital Radio in Germany could fail. These are based largely on the recent announcement from the KEF (Kommission zur Ermittlung des Finanzbedarfes), which is the body that decides on the licence fee for public broadcasters in Germany. On January 22nd, the KEF did not allocate the full requested 140 Mio. € to the public broadcasters for the roll out of digital radio. In fact, it was decided that the public broadcaster ARD would receive 45 Mio. € for the roll out of digital radio and Deutschlandradio would receive 19.5 Mio. € for the same purpose. In addition 32 Mio. € will be allocated to the public broadcasters for the roll-out of terrestrial multimedia services. This means that a total of 97 Mio.€ has been awarded to the public broadcasters for terrestrial digital radio and multimedia services.
The criticism of the commission focused on the poor results regarding the market success achieved by the public broadcasters throughout the past few years, when the KEF allotted more than 180 Mio. € for DAB digital radio. However, the commission missed a clear commitment of public broadcasters and a convincing plan to (re-)launch Digital Radio in Germany using the DAB family of standards. Herbert Tillmann, chairperson of the production commission and technology commission states: “ ARD, Deutschlandradio and the Private broadcasters are committed to arranging a successful new start of digital radio in 2009. The KEF’s recommendation should not leave behind a complete technological mess, solutions are being developed now and there is active participation of the public service broadcasters.”
The broadcasters are now required to submit a proposal to the KEF for how they will use the funds by mid 2008. This proposal for digital radio is currently being drafted by a working group of the joint digitalisation initiative of the federal and regional governments in Germany, the so-called “Forum Digitale Medien (FDM)”. Since September 2007 this working group “radio” is installed and headed by Dr. Stephan Ory, the General Manger of the association of private radio broadcasters (APR) in Germany. This group meets every four weeks and drafted a (re-) launch plan, which will be finalized and published in the 2nd quarter 2008.
In a recent press release issued from ARD, the main barriers that previously hindered the success of DAB in Germany are stated as being overcome. “With the successful conclusion of the international radio conference in Geneva 2006, considerably more frequencies are available for terrestrial digital radio. In addition modern audio codecs permit even more efficient use of these frequencies….the restrictions of the transmitting power, that previously impaired in door reception have now been lifted. ”
The key points of the current proposal by the broadcasters include:
– Terrestrial distribution will be the main distribution channel for radio even in the digital world.
– The VHF-frequency range offers the most suitable conditions to achieve 100% area coverage, which is mandatory for radio distribution.
– The DAB family is the preferred technology due to offering a good compromise between multiplex size and flexibility in regards to regional and local coverage.
– The Digital Radio launch 2009 will be based on a “big bang”-scenario:
o At least 3 multiplexes in every region;
o One of these multiplexes will be nationwide, offering explicitly new and exclusive content due to the fact that despite the fact that there are two public services in Germany there are currently no nationwide radio services available on FM.