French Free Radio Conference Rekindles Digital Discussion

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French telecom regulators are receiving signals from broadcasters suggesting they ought to rethink the nation's approach to digital radio. More than 100 radio professionals reportedly attended last week's Syndicat National des Radios Libres (SNRL) conference in Nantes to hear representatives from French community radio ask French regulators to reconsider their commitment to advancing DMB as the nation's sole platform for digital radio as they kicked off an on-air demonstration of alternate technology.

Digital radio delivered via T-DMB multiplex has generated little interest in France to date, at least partially due to high operating costs and a lack of low-cost receivers.

Low-budget community radio operators in particular are concerned about being economically shut out of the new system and are urging regulators to reconsider other technologies, such as band III DAB+ and DRM+. To make their point, 13 stations, including a couple of national channels have joined together in a two month comparative transmission test originating from Nantes using both DAB+ and T-DMB.

The building used as a staging point in the tests are said to have housed the studios of French radio pirates back in 1978 - part of a pan-European movement to push for legalization of independently owned radio.

Officials from CSA, the French broadcast regulatory authority, attended the conference and say they plan to monitor the trials.

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