Big push for European digital radio

Digital radio and the possible move away from FM transmission has been pushed back up the broadcasting agenda after the EBU issued a new Technical Recommendation to boost the roll-out of services.
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Digital radio and the possible move away from FM transmission has been pushed back up the broadcasting agenda after the EBU issued a new Technical Recommendation to boost the roll-out of services. This comes at the same time the UK government is gauging how people will react to life without analogue radio. Recommendation R138 has been approved by the EBU Technical Committee and was announced at last week's Digital Radio Summit in Geneva. R138 is the first full agreement from members of the Union concerning the distribution of digital radio, which is surprising considering the Eureka 147 project that formulised Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) began in the late 1980s. R138 calls for broadcasters to consider the requirements of all radio services when drawing up plans for digital radio networks. Among the main considerations are: room for future expansion, available spectrum and how cost effective different digital radio standards can be for different applications. The new recommendation is in accordance with the EBU's Euro-Chip project for ensuring all new equipment is able to receive both analogue and digital radio signals and can switch easily between them. Among the key points of R138 are: DAB+, the more advanced coding version of DAB, should be rolled out immediately; Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), designed as the digital replacement for AM, should be used where DAB coverage is not achievable; new digital services must offer text, images and electronic programme guides; and hybrid formats, such as Radio DNS, should be used to exploit the potential of internet-based material. Commenting on the announcement of R138, Javier Sanchez, Perez (pictured), chair of the EBU's Strategic Programme on Digital Radio Platforms, said that "terrestrial broadcast delivery is the only free to air and cost-effective method for truly mobile reception, particularly in cars". The UK government is currently considering a partial analogue radio switch-off and intends to make a final decision this year. As part of preparations for this research company Ipsos MORI is conducting a survey in the West Country city of Bath to see how people react to life without analogue radio. Volunteers, including elderly and disabled people, have given up their FM radios and are listening purely on DAB receivers. A spokeswoman for Ipsos MORI said they were being monitored to see how they reacted to the switchover and that the results of the survey would inform the government's decision. The test programme in Bath is due to run until the end of March, with data being analysed for the Department for Media, Culture and Sport during April. www.ipsos-mori.com

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