EU Parliament backs digital radio in cars

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The European Parliament, in its Plenary session, has voted to adopt the new European Electronic Communications Code, it has been announced. This Directive will require all new car radios in the EU to be capable of receiving digital terrestrial radio. This requirement is in addition to any FM or AM functionality which manufacturers may wish to include.

The Code also gives Member States the freedom to introduce measures requiring consumer radios to be able to receive digital transmissions.

Having been approved by the Parliament, the next steps for the Directive are: first, formal approval by the Council and, second, publication in the Official Journal of the European Union – at which point the Directive enters into force. These steps are expected to be completed in early 2019, after which, these rules will need to be transposed within two years into national legislation and all new car radios for sale or rent within the EU will need to comply with the Directive.

The Code will ensure that car drivers have access to the benefits of digital terrestrial radio (e.g. DAB/DAB+) wherever in the EU they have bought their new car. Increased choice, more consistent audio quality and enhanced data services will be delivered to millions of drivers across the European Union.

The first countries in Europe are switching off FM (Norway in 2017, Switzerland between 2020 and 2024) and a number of EU Member States are considering similar plans. As a result of this Directive, motorists driving through countries without FM will be able to rely on digital terrestrial radio to receive free-to-air traffic information services.

The Directive also formalises EU consent for Member States introducing rules which require consumer receivers to be able to receive digital transmissions. This is consistent with a law already introduced in Italy requiring all new radios to have digital capability from 1 January 2020. France is expected to trigger a similar law once DAB+ coverage exceeds 20% of the population – likely to be by the end of this year. Several other EU markets are currently considering similar initiatives, which would help accelerate the uptake of digital radio and, through economies of scale, are likely to lead to lower prices for entry level DAB digital radios.

WorldDAB president Patrick Hannon commented: “The inclusion of digital terrestrial radio in the European Electronic Communications Code is a critical milestone for digital radio in Europe. It is clear evidence that DAB+ is seen, at a pan-European level, as the core future platform for radio.

“The Code will provide a strong impulse to the adoption of DAB+ in cars across the EU – and will apply equally to Member States with established DAB markets and those in the earlier stages of development. For consumer devices, this Directive provides a green light to any Member State considering requiring receivers to have digital capability.”

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