Sweden maps out digital radio future

The Swedish government has announced plans for the digitisation of the country's terrestrial radio networks, with the ultimate aim of shutting down FM transmissions by 2022.
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The Swedish government has announced plans for the digitisation of the country's terrestrial radio networks, with the ultimate aim of shutting down FM transmissions by 2022. Public broadcaster Swedish Radio (SR) will move to DAB+, financing the transition with a loan from the National Debt Office. Sweden was in the vanguard of digital radio when, at the same time as the UK, it adopted DAB during 1995. While Britain pushed on with the implementation of the technology and broadcasters established digital-only stations, Sweden slowed its development of DAB networks, to the point where only 35 percent of the country was covered by SR's digital broadcasts. With SR's present licence expiring on 31 December this year, the proposal is that it will expand its digital coverage to 95 percent over the course of the next licensing period, from 2014 to 2020. Pilot DAB+ transmissions began in 2009; the following year the then new Radio and TV Act allowed commercial radio broadcasters to apply for digital licenses. After this DAB+ coverage rose to 22 percent of the population with 16 services from public service, commercial and local community radio stations. The push towards 95 percent DAB+ transmission is outlined in the Government Bill Culture and Accessibility – Public Radio and Television 2014-2019, which covers the Swedish government's conditions and guideline proposals for SR, Swedish Television (SVT) and Sveriges Utbildningsradio (UR), the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company. The government sees the move from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting as bringing a variety of advantages, including listeners having access to more radio channels across the country. The intention is to appoint an "industry coordinator", who will work with the Swedish Radio and TV Authority to draw up a plan to switch to DAB+ from FM, which is scheduled to be phased out in 2022. SR will finance the transition to digital by borrowing money from the Swedish National Debt Office, as it did for the shift to digital terrestrial TV. Writing in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, culture and sport minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth (pictured, photograph by Johan Ödmann) commented: "Radio is a strong medium with many listeners. The absolute majority listens to it via FM, which was implemented a long time ago. Although the old technology still works, it is overpriced and hinders the development of radio. A digital terrestrial network makes it possible to start new channels that can reach more listeners for a lower cost. Functions such as rewinding and pausing programmes will be possible and competition will become better when commercial radio gets access to a national network." www.worlddab.org

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