Thanks to positive DAB+ listener numbers, radio stations plan to phase out FM broadcasting in 2022/2023

71 percent of the Swiss population now receive radio programmes digitally, while the proportion using only analogue FM transmissions has fallen to just 13 percent. On 27 August 2020, the radio sector thus presented its planned phase-out of FM transmissions, which is to take place in two stages between August 2022 (SRG) and January 2023 (private stations).

At the SwissRadioDay on 27 August 2020, the digital migration working group ‘AG DigiMig’ announced that – owing to positive signs from the market and to the trend in listener numbers – the radio industry is planning to press ahead with the deactivation of FM services. In an industry agreement signed a few days earlier, it was agreed that SRG would decommission its FM transmitters in August 2022 to make it easier for commercial operators to switch over. The private radio stations are then due to deactivate their FM transmitters in January 2023. The Verband Schweizer Privatradios (VSP), the Union Romande des Radios Régionales (RRR) and the Union nicht-gewinnorientierter Lokalradios (Unikom) are requesting the approval of their members by end-November 2020. If a majority of radio broadcasters as defined by AG DigiMig agree to the proposals put forward by these associations, the FM phase-out plan will become binding for all broadcasters. SRG has already agreed to the decommissioning proposal.

OFCOM to implement the radio industry’s decommissioning plan
In the last few years, the Federal Council has created the legal framework for the changeover from analogue FM technology to DAB+. During the transitional phase and through to the decommissioning of FM, moreover, it is providing radio broadcasters with substantial financial support for promoting DAB+. During a time window that is to last for several years, the Federal Council is leaving it to the radio industry to organise the changeover from FM to DAB+ itself. OFCOM has agreed that it will accept the decommissioning dates decided by the industry as a binding obligation and cancel the FM broadcasting licences with effect from the dates agreed.

71 percent listening digitally
Since autumn 2015, GfK Switzerland has been mandated by AG DigiMig to assess the level of radio usage in Switzerland every six months. The eleventh (spring 2020) survey showed that usage of digital radio has risen by 22 percentage points since 2015: for 71 out of 100 minutes of daily listening, radio listeners use digital means to receive broadcasts (DAB+: 32%, internet and cable TV: 32%). At the same time, FM usage has dropped by 22 percentage points to 29%. By June 2020, only 13 percent of the Swiss population were using analogue FM radio only.

DAB+ now the most popular form of reception in cars too
It is not only for listeners at home or at work that DAB+ is the most popular way to receive radio programmes. In cars – the last bastion of FM radio – DAB+ has also taken over from FM as the principal means of receiving radio broadcasts. Among motorists, reception of transmissions via DAB+ or internet radio now accounts for 55 percent of total usage.

Five-million barrier breached
According to surveys conducted by GfK, sales of DAB+ devices fell slightly to just under 250,000 – probably due to the corona pandemic. Since 2000, however, a total of 5.07 million of these radios have now been sold. What matters for the future is that almost all new vehicles are now being equipped with a DAB+ device.

Specialist staff
Last modification 27.08.2020

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