2012 – RADIO IN THE DIGITAL AGENDA – SPECTRUM MANAGEMENT
Radio still requires use of spectrum, as a primary user – It is still unsure how transmission of radio via internet can efficiently replace radio broadcasting.
The “FM band” is very efficiently used – In most of Europe, currently and for the foreseeable future, there is only one viable business model: free-to-air FM broadcasting on band II (87.5-108 MHz), which represents less than 1% of the spectrum under 2 GHz. Across Europe, nearly every single frequency is used in this bandwidth. Thanks to the broad receiver penetration and the very high usage by the listeners (in Europe: 4 out of 5 citizens listen to radio at least for an hour a day), this small bandwidth is very efficiently used.
Achieving the process of radio digitisation in EU Member States will require a very long process / there is no “one-size-fits-all approach” – Radio’s plans to broadcast digitally will mainly use band III (174-230 MHz) and / or L-band (1452-1492 MHz), depending on the European States. Indeed, across the EU, plans to migrate from a satisfying analogue technology (FM) to digital broadcast technology are being actively discussed and tested. Decision on the adequate time-frame should be left to each national industry: as a matter of principle, transition to any improved digital broadcasting system should benefit from a long time-frame, unless there is industry agreement to move at a faster rate.
Radio needs guaranteed access to spectrum: in the bands described above, market-based approach management (such as service neutrality or secondary trading) cannot be enforced – As most of them are SMEs, commercially funded radios are in no position to compete for access to spectrum with other market players.
Radio is local, regional or national: for the bands described above, decisions should be taken at national level for spectrum management – Spectrum is currently efficiently managed by European States and this should remain the case: national radio frequency landscapes and national radio broadcasting markets are different, with divergent plans for digitisation, diverse social, cultural and historical characteristics and with distinct market structures and needs. Consequently, enhanced coordination at EU level of spectrum management of the bands described above does not seem necessary, or appropriate.
No EU switch-off date for analogue radio broadcasting services – On-air commercially funded digital radio has not yet achieved widespread take up across European territories. The same is true for internet-based economically sustainable radio. These two means of transmission are both digital and will be part of the patchwork of transmission techniques for commercially funded radios in the future, but it is hard to foresee when.
Although analogue, FM is a state-of-the-art efficient technology. When it comes to digital radio, the various European markets will select the most efficient radio standard: a choice endorsed by consumers. However, the EU could support interoperable solutions, in line with technology neutrality.
It is essential, in order to ensure survival and further development of radio across Europe, to maintain its access to band II, band III and L-band.
Created in 1992, the Association of European Radios (AER) is a trade-association representing the interests of over 4500 private and commercial radio broadcasters across Europe to the EU institutions. It is the only organization representing only radio to the EU Institutions.
Vincent Sneed, AER Manager
vincent.sneed @ aereurope.org