Switzerland to Switch Off FM Radio by 2023 – EU Pulls the Switch

The radio industry has agreed to switch from FM to digital broadcasting via DAB+ in 2022 and 2023. The members of the radio associations and the SRG have approved the procedure. According to this, SRG will switch off its FM stations in August 2022, and private radio stations in January 2023 at the latest.

The decision was made by a large majority in all parts of the country. This was announced by the Association of Swiss Private Radios (VSP), the Union Romande des Radios Régionales (RRR), the Union of non-profit local radio stations (Unikom) and the SRG on December 21, 2020. The exit is due to the positive signals from the market and the development of usage figures. The shutdown plan provides for SRG to take its FM stations out of service in August 2022 in order to make it easier for commercial broadcasters to switch. In January 2023, the private radio stations will take their VHF stations off the network.

OFCOM will implement the radio industry’s VHF shutdown plan. In recent years, the Federal Council has laid the legal basis for the switch from analogue VHF technology to DAB +. In addition, it grants radio broadcasters substantial financial support for DAB + broadcasting during the transition phase until the VHF is switched off. Within a period of several years, the Federal Council left it to the radio industry to organise the switch from FM to DAB+ independently. OFCOM has declared itself ready to accept the shutdown plan decided by the industry as a binding obligation and to revoke the VHF radio licenses based on the agreed dates.

71 Percent Listen Digitally

Since autumn 2015, GfK Switzerland has been determining the status of radio usage in Switzerland every six months on behalf of AG DigiMig: The eleventh survey from spring 2020 showed that digital radio usage has increased by 22 percentage points since autumn 2015. Radio listeners receive 71 out of 100 radio minutes every day digitally (DAB+: 39 percent, Internet and cable TV: 32 percent). At the same time, FM usage fell by 22 percentage points to 29 percent. And only 13 percent of the Swiss population listened exclusively to analogue VHF radio in June 2020.

In the car, too, DAB + is now the most popular reception channel. Not only at home and at work, DAB + is the most popular reception channel for radio programs. DAB+ has also gained in importance in cars, the last VHF bastion, and has replaced VHF as the most important radio reception channel. Radio use via DAB+ and Internet radio together now make up 55 percent of total use in the car.

Five Million Threshold Exceeded

In the first half of 2020, according to GfK surveys, sales of almost 250,000 DAB + devices were down – probably due to corona. However, a total of 5.07 million radios have been sold since 2000. The fact that practically all new cars are now equipped with a DAB + device as standard is important for the rest of the process. OFCOM will publish new figures in the first quarter of 2021.

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