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Deutsche Welle launches digital short-wave broadcasting

Director-General Erik Bettermann: "Radio will experience a world-wide renaissance" - Germany's international radio able to improve its services significantly and expects growing number of potential listeners

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DRM chair Peter Senger

On Monday, 16 June 2003, Deutsche Welle began daily radio transmissions via digital short-wave. This was the official launch of the new broadcasting standard for long, medium and short wave developed by the Digital Radio Mondiale Consortium (DRM) under the auspices of the World Radio Conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva. DRM chair Peter Senger has handed over the forward-looking system to the 192 member states of the ITU for use in their respective countries.

DW Director-General Erik Bettermann says: "Thanks to the immense improvement in quality over analogue transmission," Deutsche Welle is expecting "a world-wide renaissance of radio and an increase in the numbers of listeners".

DW will take full advantage of the great opportunities that this new mode of transmission offers, particularly in international radio. Test broadcasts have proven the advantages of DRM, which are not only to be found in better audio quality and reception. "In the long term, Deutsche Welle also expects the lower energy consumption of digital transmitters to lead to a drop in operating costs," Bettermann added.

Twelve hours daily upon launch

Deutsche Welle is starting its digital broadcasts with twelve hours daily to Europe and the Middle East in German, English and Arabic. "This will be the first step towards a new Deutsche Welle multi-language European channel," according to Uta Thofern, editor-in-chief of DW-RADIO. "For daily German programmes, we have chosen our current affairs magazine Funkjournal and alternating background information programmes such as the Nord-Süd-Forum and the European magazines. Initially we will be broadcasting news in English to the Middle East. In addition - to demonstrate the outstanding audio quality of DRM - we will offer musical programmes."

Altogether over 100 programming hours are be broadcast daily in the DRM standard. Nine other radio stations are participating in the launch including BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale and Voice of America. The Swedish and Canadian international broadcasters were also involved from the start of the project as well as another German station DeutschlandRadio. By the end of 2004, the DRM Consortium expects to be broadcasting 300 hours per day in the new digital standard.

Transmitters need only be modified

Deutsche Welle is now continuing to modify its existing transmitters at relay stations in Sines, Portugal; Trincomalee, Sri Lanka; Kigali, Rwanda; and Antigua in the Caribbean for DRM operation. Negotiations for modification work on transmitters are underway with operators in Germany and Russia. After modification, the transmitters can be operated either in the digital or analogue mode, or in both simultaneously

The DRM Consortium has about 80 member stations from over 30 countries. Peter Senger, Director of Marketing, Sales and Engineering at Deutsche Welle, has chaired the steering committee since DRM was founded in 1998. At the official launch in Geneva he stressed that in future the listener will need just one receiver for all frequencies under 30 MHz - that is for short, medium and long wave.

The DRM Consortium expects that the first receivers at prices consumers can afford will be on the market by the end of 2004 and that one million receivers will have been sold by the end of 2006. The intervening period, according to Peter Senger, will be needed to optimise transmitters for the target region. "The DRM standard", he explains, "only works if the frequencies used are properly calculated and co-ordinated. When scheduling frequencies for VHF-FM, DAB and TV you are more less assured of getting good results, but on short-wave you have to factor in the time of day, the season and sunspot activity."

Digitalisation opens up a wealth of new opportunities: it will no longer be necessary to search for the right frequency, station IDs lead the listener to the desired station and receiver will switch to the best frequency without interrupting programme reception. Information about the programme can also be transmitted at the same time as this programme itself. "Deutsche Welle will test each of the options and implement them if feasible," said Senger.

16 June 2003
122/03

Christoph Jumpelt

Christoph Jumpelt

Head of Corporate Communications and Spokesperson

T. +49.228.429-2041
christoph.jumpelt@dw.com

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