Specialist panel with the Director General of Deutsche Welle in the context of Medientage München
Peter Senger, DW's Director of Distribution and Chairman of DRM
"Digital short-wave will revolutionise cross-border broadcasts and will initiate a world-wide renaissance of radio". This was the opinion of the Director General of Deutsche Welle, Mr Erik Bettermann, during a panel discussion at Münchner Medientage. Mr Bettermann, the head of the German international broadcaster - and instigator of the event - was not the only one to present an optimistic prediction of a "Digital Global Radio" development: The other panel specialists also emphasised the advantages of digitalisation in the so-called AM range, i.e. short-, medium- and long-wave.
The discussion was chaired by Peter Senger, Director of Distribution at Deutsche Welle and Chairman of the Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) Consortium; and next to Erik Bettermann, BBC representative Mike Cronk, Dan D'Aversa of RTL Group and Phil Laven of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) were also participating in the debate.
Senger outlined the advantages of digital short-wave as follows: The world-wide accepted DRM standard provided an excellent audio-quality comparable to FM. In addition, the search for frequencies was obsolete, as the station identification tuned in to the designated frequency and automatically switched to the best one. In parallel, it allows for the sending of accompanying programme information such as text messages.
"On top of everything, digital transmission technology saves a lot of energy and costs compared to the analogue one", Senger said. This would open up enormous opportunities, especially for international broadcasters.
For several years, DW - like many other broadcasters - has noted that listeners migrated from short-wave to FM or other new distribution channels in digital quality, said Bettermann. Deutsche Welle had to stay abreast of these changes. "According to test transmissions being operated by Deutsche Welle, we anticipate large area coverage in almost FM quality without interference such as jitters, induced power-noise or fading", the General Director stated. At the same time, not only stationery indoor reception, but also mobile reception in cars and with small portable devices is possible.
Admittedly listeners would need new receivers. As a consequence, the real challenge for the DRM consortium would be to achieve successful implementation, said Technical Director of the EBU, Mr. Philip Laven. The timetable for the introduction of digital services in the AM bands would in fact be set by broadcasters, "but the speed of the transition to digital will be set by consumers", stressed Laven.
Dan D'Aversa of RTL Group sees the chance to develop pan-European coverage and that RTL Group would try to ensure "that low-cost DRM receivers will be on sale in time for Christmas 2005".
Mike Cronk stated that the BBC had invested heavily in DRM and that they were now developing "a detailed strategy for its initial deployment, probably into Europe, in 2005". According to Cronk, DRM offered the unique combination of wide area short-wave coverage and FM usability and quality.
As a consequence of using this digital medium, continuous direct delivery to the audience avoiding "political or other regulatory obstacles" will be possible.
Bettermann, having also stressed the aspect of the impossibility to censor short-wave and, focussing on European implementation, announced that Deutsche Welle would gradually switch off its analogue short-wave transmissions. A pre-condition would be the world-wide availability of DRM receivers.
21 October 2004