This November, Connects2 travelled to Austria to take part in and sponsor the WorldDAB General Assembly, a meeting of the world’s best minds in radio
Images: WorldDAB | Words: Ben Armstrong
In the last ten years, DAB has transitioned from a possibility to an inevitable advancement in how we listen to radio. Europe in particular has led the movement which offers superior station choice, sound quality and flexibility than traditional FM, and the rest of the world is set to follow. Since its humble debut in Norway back in 1995, a digital future has been held back only through lack of infrastructure and funding; on paper, it had always pointed to a more efficient way of listening.
Several countries, including our native UK and Norway, have kept the faith for twenty years and are finally seeing their efforts come to fruition. In 2017, Norway will boldly step into a fully digital world and switch off FM services – the logical end point to a two decade journey, and the beginning of another, more exciting adventure.
In Austria this November, WorldDAB, the global forum for DAB radio, made the first steps into that future with a General Assembly which saw over 200 radio experts unite in discussion. A wide array of topics were presented including the continued growth in established markets, updates on emerging markets, new business opportunities, radio receivers, consumer marketing and, especially interesting to us, the ongoing dialogue between DAB and the automotive industry.
The relationship between radio and cars has always been strong; there are virtually no vehicles on the road which don’t come equipped with radio. They just go together. Although integration has been slow (in the main, due to the need for widespread coverage for effective listening on the road), 86% of all new cars are now fitted with DAB as standard in the UK, with several popular stations such as talkSPORT available as digital exclusives.
At the General Assembly, Ford Ennals, Chief Executive Officer of Digital Radio UK, offered a message with immense progress at its heart, centred around the idiom that ‘standing still is not an option’. His vision prophesised 2017 as the tipping point for the country, with the two criteria for switchover, coverage and digital listening, on track to be met. He described the state of DAB in the UK as ‘a marathon followed by a sprint’, putting into perspective the huge amount of time and resources which have been invested into getting to this point, and the final push which is required by all parties to make a digital future reality.
It is this point – the need for everyone to combine their efforts – which hit home the most at the General Assembly this year. Jacqueline Bierhorst, representing Digital Radio Netherlands, said that “If we do not collaborate, it is nearly impossible to make digital radio work” – a fact which has been proven by years of progress halted through poor infrastructure and a lack of support. With the hardest work already done, collaboration is now the answer.
2017 is just around the corner and it promises to be a big year for Digital Radio around the world. For the United Kingdom, the bricks have already been laid and the foundation set for heightened DAB presense followed by a full digital switch-over. For many, the end of FM will come as a shock to the system after over fifty years of service, however DAB points to a better, more efficient way of listening for the broadcaster and consumer alike. For those not at the WorldDAB General Assembly, the message to the world was clear:
It’s time to be proactive.
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