The Association of Public Broadcasting Corporations in Germany (ARD) has decided to transfer FM radio to DAB+, although some German public and commercial radio broadcasters are still undecided. The German DRM Platform is recommending DRM+ as an effective system for digital distribution of regional and local programmes.

ARD directors decided in November 2014 to move ahead with the transition from radio broadcasting via FM to DAB+. They stressed that the simulcast phase (simultaneous radio broadcasting on FM and DAB+) should be kept as long as necessary to give users sufficient time for transition, and should be as cost-effective as possible. It was also acknowledged that the ARD cannot make the switch from FM to DAB+ alone – support from administrations and commercial broadcasters is needed to make it a success.

Although the directors of the ARD have not published a fixed date for analogue switch-off, the director of German Radio (Deutschland Radio) announced that this could happen in 2025, drawing on examples from different European countries.

The background for this decision is that the Commission for the determination of the financial needs of public service broadcasters in Germany requires the ARD to reduce radio transmission costs over the next five-year broadcasting fee period (2017-2022), and therefore a switch-off date for FM is Necessary.

German public broadcasters are still undecided. They want an efficient business model that comprises not only DAB+ but all digital distribution forms, and have requested a. round table discussion to identify and clarify all the urgent issues for the future.

The German DRM Platform stresses the need to include all broadcasters and their various coverage areas in consultations on issues such as replicating existing distribution areas of local and regional broadcasters, for which DAB may not be the optimal system, because the limited number of programmes in a local area makes its deployment both uneconomical and inefficient in terms of spectrum. The digital radio system particularly well suited for this is DRM+, which enables regional, local, and community media to make the transition alongside the national and federal state DAB offerings, thus facilitating the conversion of all terrestrial radio broadcasting to digital.

The introduction of DRM in Germany and large parts of Europe could be assisted by current international developments and media policy efforts to provide multi-standard digital receivers. In advance of regular DRM+ offerings in VHF band III, it will be necessary to create the conditions for market entry. These relate in particular to the availability both of a commercially acceptable broadcasting infrastructure and of radio receivers in the consumer market that are both DRM+ and DAB capable, as well as the creation of an implementation strategy.

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