2005-07-31

dab-i-dab-i-doo

You remember the ketchup bottle analogy. First comes nothing, then nothing and then… it’s tomato sauce party time.

The visionaries behind Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in Sweden might be hoping for their own ketchup effect. From what we’ve been told, DAB is a great success already. The technology is here, Sveriges Radio is distributing six new channels digitally. The FM-band is already fully occupied with no room for new channels. Handheld digital music devices are everywhere. Public service radio should go digital to remain relevant and attractive. So all the good reasons are already in place.

There’s just one slightly annoying factor: no one’s listening. Well, very few. 930 receivers were sold last year, nationwide. With that kind of stellar success, we'll all remain in FM-land for the rest of our lives.

It started ten years ago when Sveriges Radio and BBC introduced the very first digital channels. The British government wisely included commercial stations in their DAB strategy. Not so in Sweden where SR was left alone to pursue experimental broadcasting. We're now entering the second decade of DAB in Sweden and amazingly there's still no political decision about its future. In fact, DAB has been shut down outside our major cities in an effort to cut costs!

dab-i-dab-i-doo, what a government we've got!

To find some listeners SR has decided to distribute its digital channels via the web. Understandable but a mixed blessing really. The obvious advantage is that anyone with reasonably "semi-broadband" internet access can listen. (I've tuned in to SRX while writing this.) But with web radio available there is even less incentive now to go buy a digital receiver.
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