Pros and cons for a switchoff of Dutch AM and FM broadcast

On the request of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, Dialogic performed a study on the arguments for and against a switchoff of AM and FM broadcast radio distribution in the Netherlands.

The purpose of this research is to provide insight into the options and necessary conditions for a possible discontinuation of analogue radio-ether distribution via AM and FM, as well as to identify alternative uses for the AM and FM bands. The main research questions are:

  1. Under what conditions and with what arguments is discontinuation of analogue, terrestrial radio  distribution in the FM band (87.5-108 MHz) and AM band (526.5-1606.5 kHz) in the Netherlands meaningful and possible?
  2. Depending on the answer to the first question: what is a realistic term and approach for the discontinuation of analogue radio broadcast in the AM and FM bands?

The following chart summarizes the structure of arguments and effects of an FM switchoff. The arrows indicate the direction of the effect (up: positive, down: negative).

Whether and when a discontinuation of FM is sensible and should be realized depends on the value that is attached to various aforementioned arguments (see the figure above). There seems to be a broad consensus that switching off high-power AM is desirable, but a complete discontinuation (including lower-power broadcasts) does not make sense.
A realistic deadline for discontinuation of FM broadcasting is roughly between 2027 and 2032. Given the current licenses, it is only possible to start switching off FM from 2022 onwards. A discontinuation in 2022 has a significant impact: the impact of most positive and negative arguments will be relatively large at that point in time. As alternatives to FM are becoming increasingly important over time, the negative impact of discontinuation decreases in the period up to around 2027-2032. Because the positive impact also drops strongly afterwards, it is preferable to switch off before 2032.

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