The DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) digital radio sector has responded robustly to recent negative opinions and reports on the technology and called for action to make the switchover from analogue transmission a reality, writes Kevin Hilton.
The call for action was made at the General Assembly of the WorldDMB (WDMB) Forum, which defined the DAB and DAB+ digital radio standards and the DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) format for radio and mobile reception.
The meeting was held in Belfast at the end of October. It coincided with the EBU's Digital Radio Conference and Festival of Radio - Making Connections, organised jointly by Irish broadcasters BBC Northern Ireland and RTE.
Broadcasters and manufacturers took the opportunity to respond to criticism of the slow take-up of DAB, particularly in the UK. Despite the British government setting 2015 as the date for the digital switchover to begin, critics are not convinced that DAB will fully replace FM broadcasts. Digital radio also faces serious competition from the internet and multimedia, which is seen as offering more choice and better technical quality.
In the keynote address Hossein Yassaie, chief executive of Imagination Technologies, parent group of leading digital receiver manufacturer PURE, called for a unified strategy to ensure that digital radio proliferated across Europe. He added that the launch of DAB in Germany, France and Italy was crucial for the "health" of the digital radio market.
Yassaie called broadcast radio the "most efficient and greenest method of reaching a large population", particularly for listeners in cars and on the move in general. This point was backed up with analysis presented by Simon Mason, head of technical development at transmission company Arqiva. Mason presented research showing that 3G/4G are not economically or technically realistic alternatives to radio for delivering programmes to the mobile market.
Tim Davie, director of BBC Audio and Music, said that simulcasting digital and analogue transmissions was a major burden to broadcasters and that this "bump in the road" need to be deal with soon. He continued that a "clear roadmap" was necessary so European broadcasters could plan for the future confidently.
A possible interim measure that was discussed is a hybrid system combing DAB, IP and FM that could be used leading up to a full switchover.
The president of WDMB, Jorn Jensen (pictured), commented that the General Assembly had seen "real energy and commitment" from delegates this year. He said the DAB industry need to carry on cooperating to ensure the successful rollout of the technology internationally.
"In 2011 WDMB will continue to work together with our members to support France, Germany and Italy, as well as strengthen our already valuable communication with the automotive industry," Jensen concluded.