The Swiss radio stations do not want to switch off their FM stations until December 31, 2024, as was originally planned. Apparently the plan to bring the shutdown forward in stages is no longer capable of consensus in the industry. The digital migration working group (AG DigiMig) announced on Thursday that the majority of broadcasters in German and Italian Switzerland are still in favor of premature shutdown. “In the French-speaking part of Switzerland, however, no sufficient majority could be found in the concrete implementation.”
However, since a nationwide solution is being sought, “the radios have therefore returned to their original plan to switch off the VHF transmitters by December 31, 2024,” it said. In addition, recent market figures indicated that radio audiences needed more time to switch. “With this shift, consumers, including drivers, have more time to change technology,” explained DigiMig.
73 of 100 minutes digital
Last autumn, the members of DigiMig initially agreed that the FM switch-off would be staggered, since three quarters of radio use was already being made via a digital distribution channel, above all DAB +. According to GfK, an average of 73 minutes of 100 radio minutes per day were received digitally in autumn 2020. Only every eighth person said that they only switched on FM radio. So the SRG’s VHF stations should be switched off in August 2022 and the private radio stations should follow in January 2023.
In the past few months, however, the switch-off has been discussed more and more vehemently. In June, the former media minister Doris Leuthard spoke up publicly and demanded that the station shutdowns be postponed. She supports the petition “Save UKW”, which the entrepreneur and former “radio pirate” Roger Schawinski had launched and which attracted over 60,000 signatures against the switch-off of the FM transmitter.
According to media reports, after a meeting with Schawinski, the National Council’s Transport and Telecommunications Commission (KVF-N) also called for an in-depth examination of the consequences of not switching off VHF radio stations. Postponing the shutdown to the end of 2024 would cost tens of millions, say the broadcasters. In the long run, no company can afford the double distribution via VHF and DAB +. On August 30th, the commission is due to look into the matter again.
Costs in the millions
However, since the VHF radio licenses expire at the end of 2024, no more programs could be broadcast on these frequencies from then on anyway. According to media reports, Schawinski criticized the fact that the postponed new shutdown date was based only on the “expiry of private licenses” and “not on real radio use”. He called on politicians to “not leave the decision to private radio broadcasters”. And the SRG must also get involved in the discussion instead of “consistently hiding behind the private radio broadcasters”.
Schawinski (also known in Germany as the brief head of the German TV station SAT.1) is himself a legend in radio history. Only operator of a much-heard “pirate station” at the end of the 1970s, he failed at that time with a petition against the shutdown of his station. However, the fans of his radio station defended their station in person on an Italian mountain peak even in the snowstorm. Later, the now 76-year-old pioneer of private radio (and still operator of the Zurich local radio “Radio1”) legally founded his Radio 24 in Switzerland and changed the entire domestic radio world.