Uncertain VHF future: Start of broadcasting for Nord private radio stations on DAB+

In Schleswig-Holstein, regular operation for private radio programs via digital radio DAB+ will start this Saturday (April 1, 2023). At the same time, experts expect that some private stations will no longer be broadcast analog via VHF, at least in the medium and long term.

In the northernmost federal state, 12 to 16 private radio programs are being broadcast on the key date of April 1, depending on the region. According to the media authority Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein (MA-HSH), most private programs will then be receivable nationwide. In addition, 28 nationwide programs and eight NDR programs in Schleswig-Holstein can be received via DAB+.

Digital radio reception in Germany is becoming increasingly popular. According to the most recent digitization report by the media authorities, more than every third person aged 14 and over in Germany (34 percent) prefers to receive digital radio. In the meantime, however, distribution via the Internet (web radio) has overtaken terrestrial digital radio DAB+ (12.4 percent) at 19.2 percent.

However, more than half of radio listeners (55.8 percent) still prefer analogue transmission via VHF. The parallel operation via DAB+ and VHF is viewed critically by private broadcasters and above all by public broadcasters because of the high costs. Most recently, Deutschlandradio director Stefan Raue pointed out “immense price increases”. “In the long run, we won’t be able to afford two terrestrial transmission paths,” said Raue.

The Swiss media entrepreneur Roger Schawinski, who managed the business of the German private television station Sat.1 from 2003 to 2006, has repeatedly spoken out as a determined critic of a possible FM switch-off in Europe. He warned against turning many millions of working FM radios in households into electronic waste.

According to information from the specialist portal Radioszene.de, however, at least the long-term perspective of VHF radio in the north is uncertain. After that, the currently valid VHF licenses should no longer be extended. Since R.SH’s license was only extended two years ago, the nationwide private broadcaster is allowed to broadcast on VHF until June 30, 2031. Other stations such as Antenne Sylt (88.1 and 100.3 MHz) or Radio Lübeck (88.5 MHz), on the other hand, would have to leave their VHF frequencies a few years earlier and can then only be received via the new digital radio standard DAB+ .

According to the provisions of the State Media Agreement, FM frequencies that are no longer used should not be reassigned and not re-advertised. According to the HSH media authority, this also applies to frequencies whose allocations are expiring. “The allocation of VHF frequencies is always limited.” There is therefore no uniform “expiration date” for VHF in Schleswig-Holstein. However, the existing temporary allocations of VHF frequencies will expire in the next few years. The first VHF allocations will therefore end in 2025.


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