- Does DRM have a future? -
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"I'm convinced DRM will completely revolutionise broadcasting in the AM bands" says John Sykes, BBC World Service's Head of Transmission Services and founder DRM Member. (2003)

The last few years have not been a good time for shortwave broadcasters and listeners. Many broadcasters have had their funding cut and have reduced broadcasts and closed transmitter sites. Closure of the transmitters not only affects the broadcaster who owns the site but other radio stations that lease time to broadcast their service.

This reduction in shortwave broadcasting was the future that DRM was suppose to avoid.
 
Listed below are some of the closures - all these radio stations or transmitter sites have been broadcasting DRM as well as AM. For anyone interested in radio then this will be a depressing read - with the rise of the internet, and the current austere economic situation, spending public money on transmitters to bounce radio signals off the ionosphere is difficult to justify.
 
It is not possible to quantify the number of listeners in the target region or the influence that these international broadcasts give to the host station or country. Hence difficult to persuade politicians to invest tax payers money in what many regard as a bygone era. 
 
This is what the US Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees US government-funded media broadcasts concluded in the 'Special Comittee on the Future of Shortwave Broadcasting' report regarding DRM -
 
The Committee reviewed digital shortwave, known as Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM).  The Committee heard in several forums that DRM has matured over the past decade, and now has the ability to provide the listener with almost CD quality audio, as well as deliver text, images, and low motion video over a standard shortwave broadcast channel.  Despite these capabilities, DRM has failed to capture any significant market share due to a lack of affordable receivers inside and outside of our target markets, a general downtrend in shortwave usage, and the concomitant lack of adoption by the overwhelming majority of broadcasters.
 
Does DRM have a future?

It is undeniable that DRM has failed to be an alternative to AM radio despite considerable investment in new transmitters (particularly by RTL and Deutsche Welle). It is still not possible (after 10 years of regular DRM transmissions) to visit a UK high-street retailer and see or buy a DRM receiver. When DRM was first announced we were promised FM quality but, like DAB in the UK, this proved rather optimistic - the reality is 'near FM quality'.

DRM was the answer to the decline of shortwave or international broadcasting within Europe and as such it has failed - at least for the time being. DRM does have a future if India or China adopt the standard, both countries have a huge population where shortwave radio is used for domestic broadcasting and the manufacturing capabilities to design and build receivers. India has invested in a network of 37 DRM capable transmitters primarily for medium wave. This means that the future of DRM is no longer in the hands of European broadcasters. Despite ever optimistic newsletters from the DRM consortium there has been little progress.
 
In Europe there are now fewer hours being broadcast using DRM than was the case in 2005. Below are scans I did for DRM signals on my Winradio G303i at 12:45pm on the 5th November 2005 and on the 28th January 2006 





BBC World Service

As a result of a 16% reduction to its grant the BBC World Service cut its English shortwave service by 60% (reduced to six hours a day) and the Cyprus short wave relay station was closed. To achieve this reduction of £42m annual saving by April 2014, BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks said: "Shortwave audiences are declining as radio audiences come to rely increasingly on medium wave and FM, and there has been a rapid growth of television and digital media."

There was complete closure of five language services – Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa, Serbian languages, and English for the Caribbean. The end of radio programmes in a further seven languages as well as the end of medium wave broadcasts to Europe and Russia. Woofferton transmitter still broadcast a few hours a day to Europe including a daily BBC World Service in English and weekly broadcast for Radio Japan in English and Russian.

Rampisham transmitter site (in Devon, south England) ceased broadcasts end of October 2011 and the radio towers have been dismantled.
 
Orfordness ceased DRM broadcasts to Europe on 1296 kHz (medium wave) in May 2012.

Good news: recent changes have resulted in extra government funding for 2016 - 2018, thus reversing some of the cuts. This will help fund 11 new foreign language services;  includes the expansion of Russian, African, Korean and Arabic services.
 
Radio Netherlands Worldwide (Radio Nederland Wereldomroep)
 
On June 24, 2011, the Dutch government announced a 70% cut to RNW's budget reducing it from 46 million Euros to 14 million. Six of RNW's 10 language services closed, including English and Dutch. All shortwave broadcasting ceased except for programming directed at Cuba, part of Asia and parts of Africa.

The short wave relay station located in Bonaire (Caribbean) ceased operation on 30th June 2012 and the radio towers have since been dismantled.
 
QSL DRM
 
QSL AM
  
 
Radio Canada International (RCI)
 
On April 4, 2012 an approximate 80% budget cut to the International service from $12.3 million a year to $2.3 million a year was announced. As a result all shortwave and satellite transmissions ended on June 26, 2012.

Radio Canada have closed their Sackville relay station and looking for a buyer for the land. RCI was a distinctive voice on shortwave.
 
Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany)

From November 1, 2011, daily output of DW on shortwave was reduced from 260 hours to 55 hours. As a result of these cuts, the DW shortwave relay stations in Trincomalee (Sri Lanka) and
Sines (Portugal) was closed. Trincomalee was used to broadcast DRM, site taken over by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in 2013 but is now not listed as a DRM broadcaster. Sines was the primary transmitter for AM/DRM broadcasts to the UK and western Europe. 
 
DW discontinued shortwave broadcasts in German, Russian, Farsi and Indonesian. For English, the shortwave broadcast will be limited to Africa. Shortwave broadcasts to regions in Asia will continue but broadcasting for Chinese programming reduced.

Only the relay station in Kigali (Rwanda) will be needed for shortwave broadcasts within Africa. DW no longer uses the German shortwave transmitters located Wertachtal, Nauen, Juelich (all of these were used to broadcast DRM).
 
RTL Group (Radio Television Luxembourg)
 

“The European market is key to DRM’s success, and we are thrilled to discuss digital radio’s bright future with a media powerhouse of RTL Group’s stature,” said DRM Chairman Peter Senger. (2004)

During 2005 to 2010 RTL was broadcasting DRM regularly on 5990, 6075, 6095, 7295 kHz from Junglinster with programming in English, French and German, and 1440 kHz (208 metres) from Marnach. The 1440 kHz transmitter site at Marnach has been closed due to residents concerns about the local high rf levels being broadcast from the 1.2 MW transmitter.

Michel Penneroux, Chairman of the DRM Commercial Committee, outlined the plans of Luxembourg-based commercial broadcaster RTL to help drive the commercial development of DRM in Europe. Penneroux said that RTL intends to make sure there are two million DRM receivers in Europe by 2007. “This is going to happen” he said. RTL has 150 million listeners per day. They will have RTL-branded receivers covering everything below 30 MHz. They are currently working with various car radio manufacturers also.

There is now no mention of RTL or any RTL transmitter sites listed in the DRM broadcast schedule, so it seems that the RTL Group (once a keen supporter) have given up on DRM.
 
BR5 aktuell (Bayerischer Randfunk)
 
Began regular DRM transmissions on 6085 kHz in March 2005 but ceased DRM broadcasting from Ismaning (Bavaria) on September 2010. The shortwave aerials have been dismantled.
 
DRM background
COFDM
FAC
SFN
MSC
SDC data 1
Multimedia
Bandplan
DRM future
DRM audio
FAC sync
DRM multiplex
DRM modes
SDC data 2