Is DAB+ really breaking through?
Flanders already committed itself a while ago to DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcasting); now Wallonia has jumped on the bandwagon. More and more instances want people to move from FM radio to DAB+, but the consumer is only following hesitantly.
In November last year, the EU has decreed that car manufacturers will have to provide DAB+ radio in their cars as of 2021. Flanders’ reaction was positive, it already wanted to abandon the FM radio distribution in 2022.
A recent study shows that the number of people listening via DAB+ is increasing (from 3 to 9%), but still, more are using the internet to stream radio programs (12%). 5% use digital TV-channels for the radio too. That means that three-quarters of Flemish people still stick to their FM distribution to listen to their favorite radio channels.
In Wallonia, the movement started later but is in full swing now, with a one-week-lasting campaign to promote DAB+. The number of people using it is even less than in Flanders: 3% (against 9% via the internet, 7% digital TV-channels and… 81% still sticking to FM).
In theory, digital broadcasting offers larger bandwidths and can accommodate more broadcasting channels. The quality should be a lot better too, and DAB+ should be a win-win situation for broadcasters as well as the listeners.
The signal goes via radio frequencies, so it is free and anonymous. Moreover, the listener can’t be followed by Google, Facebook, or others while he’s listening, and he doesn’t have to pay a fee. In case of a catastrophe or terrorism, the broadcasting can’t be pirated that easily.
For the broadcasters, DAB+ offers a closed and regulated environment, where the competition is known and isn’t increasing every day. The relation with the auditors is direct, there are no in-betweens.
Some critics say that DAB+ will already be outdated soon, so why do all these investments. People need to buy another receiver, and more often than not, the quality is still poor at the moment and the signal unreliable.
“At the time DAB+ will be in full use, the internet will be stable enough for mobile streaming,” says Tom Evens, professor media-economy at Ghent University. “Secondly, the quality within well-isolated houses can be awful. Thirdly, the offer of different broadcasters hasn’t increased very much with DAB+ stepping in.”
In any case, the intention of the Flemish government to quit FM radio distribution in 2022 is already dead. The authorities now say that they will consider a switching date when 50% of the people are using DAB+. That still seems still a long way to go.