MUNICH — In her first public appearance as WorldDAB president on Nov. 7, Jacqueline Bierhorst struck up the (digital radio) band at the WorldDAB Summit 2023 gala dinner, the annual, informal event where WorldDAB members and delegates from the radio industry lay the ground for the upcoming discussions and networking.
The following day, Bierhorst opened the Summit with her keynote speech. “It’s my priority to continue Patrick’s work,” she stated, referring to Patrick Hannon, WorldDAB’s past president. “We need to create a DAB+ awareness and keep on doing that, building on his vision, mission and strategy, fostering collaboration and excellence in all aspects.”
Bierhorst highlighted the positive trend of digital radio both in established markets and countries approaching this technology, either in terms of broadcast trial or prospective adoption. She pointed out that about 96% of new cars in Europe come with a DAB+ receiver as a standard, even in countries where DAB services are not yet available.
After carefully considering digital radio distribution figures, Bayerische Landeszentrale für neue Medien, the Bavarian regulatory authority for new media, is seriously considering a digital switch-over. Thorsten Schmiege, BLM president, said Bavaria is leading the chart in driving the digitization of German radio, and DAB+ adoption is strong — about 48% of residents have at least one DAB+ receiver in their house or their car, and this figure is constantly rising. If DAB+ continues developing at its present pace, BLM expects that in two or three years, more people will be listening to radio in Bavaria via digital platforms than on FM. “Reason enough for BLM, as part of our audio strategy 2020/25, to work together with broadcasters on a concept for migrating to DAB+,” Schmiege said, adding that the future of radio is digital.
DAB+ is also gaining momentum in France, where 556 stations are presently on air across 110 multiplexes. Hervé Godechot, a board member of the French regulating authority Arcom, said DAB+ broadcasts reached 54,8% of the French population as of September 2023. This figure is expected to rise to 62,2% within Q1-2024, reaching major roads and motorways and densely populated urban areas. In France, “the entire radio sector, the regulator and the public authorities are now working together to find the best way of dealing with the major challenge of transitioning from FM to DAB+,” Godechot said.
Securing radio’s prominence in the car audio experience is key to the entire radio industry. To this purpose, since 2020, the Pilot project — the technology innovation initiative of the National Association of Broadcasters — has aimed to fully exploit the potential of the Android Automotive in-car operating system from the point of view of radio stakeholders. Joseph D’Angelo, senior vice president at Xperi and Gregor Pötzsch, product owner radio at CARIAD (Volkswagen Group), confirmed how, after lengthy discussions with Pilot, Google extensively developed their Android Automotive OS and, in May 2023, they supplied Pilot with an updated beta version. Xperi tested that code and validated it almost in full. Google included other improvements in the public release of Android Automotive 14 on Oct. 4.