Mike Stevens | May 11, 2009

The launch of digital radio is happening this month across Australia, and pundits are pondering what its future holds. Will it flourish, or will it be assigned to the digital reject bin, like Mini Discs and HD-DVD?

Digital radio is an impressive enough format - possessing cleaner and improved sound, extra channels, track title and artist info, pause and rewind, downloadable music and images, just to name a few features.

Commercial Radio Australia’s CEO Joan Warner said that talks with the auto industry are underway, working towards a solution for the DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcasting) system.

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Warner said, "Car manufacturers in Australia and overseas are aware that Australia's digital radio standard is DAB+ and we are switching on in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth this month."

"Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Audi have DAB receivers and Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has contacted these manufactures to encourage them to add a DAB+ chip into those receivers for the Australian market."

digital-car-radio_02 In addition to this, Commercial Radio Australia is also looking at providing the car after-market with a number of options to enjoy DAB+.

Some of the ideas include in-car adaptors that could link a portable DAB+ receiver via Bluetooth in your car or portable navigation systems that may include a DAB+ solution.

"Other receiver manufacturers CRA has spoken with are working on DAB+ after car market options.

"CRA is also a member of the World DMB Car Manufacturers Task Force meeting in Stockholm shortly to further encourage DAB+ options in cars throughout the world," Ms Warner said.

Australia is following the European lead; with DAB+ being the preferred digital radio broadcast system, as opposed to HD radio in the US.

UK digital radio sales are going great guns, with sixty per cent of all radio listening coming via a digital signal.

The top-selling Ford Focus, Ford C-MAX and Ford Kuga are the first models to receive DAB+, with other models in the European Ford range to receive the option later this year.

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On the Australian broadcasting front, Austereo (2DayFM and Triple M) are already trialling their new digital-only station, Radar, and now DMG (Nova and Vega) have announced their new digital stations: Novanation (dance) and Koffee (chill), but their management reasons that it will be four years before we know if their stations have truly been accepted.

Organisations like Commercial Radio Australia (and their lobbying) will help the acceptance of the new broadcast medium, and, of course, the carmakers who will decide whether to include or option it.

Carmakers will no doubt closely evaluate home digital radio sales figures before deciding whether to opt for it in their vehicles.

Ultimately, it’s in the hands of the fickle public, their acceptance of the marketing, the relative cost and the benefits of improved radio sound and helpful features.

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