First published by Swiss Revue – Author: Stéphane Herzog
All Swiss radio stations will broadcast their programmes over the air via digital signal by 2024, sounding the death knell for FM. Supported by the Swiss Confederation, this change has enabled dozens of alternative radio stations to gain access to the airwaves.
The days of pirate radio when activists would install rogue antennas to access FM band are long gone. Today, radio is in the process of freeing itself from the constraints of the terrestrial network. On the one hand, all radio stations are available online which requires a paid-for connection. On the other, most stations no longer broadcast just in frequency modulation (FM), but also via a digital signal. This system is called Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). It ensures interference-free reception and textual and visual information can also be integrated, which represents a revolution.
This changeover has enabled the creation of an unprecedented Swiss radio eco-system, allowing small stations – often web radio channels – to access the airwaves. This peripheral network exists thanks to a small company called Digris SA, which has identified new opportunities in DAB. Based in Zurich, this start-up has developed a lightweight and affordable technology with the help of free airwaves campaigners. Adopting this approach, it obtained a licence from the Swiss Confederation in 2013. The small enterprise has become the most important non-commercial radio broadcaster in Switzerland. “It has 70 stations, which accounts for half of those which broadcast in DAB,” states Thomas Gilgen, CEO of this small company which enjoys a monopoly of the niche radio market, proudly.
Digris provides a service for accessing broadcasting which the stations find attractively priced. The subscription costs around 14,000 Swiss francs a year compared with 100,000 Swiss francs for a large operator such as Romandie Médias SA, which launched the first private DAB coverage in French-speaking Switzerland in 2014.