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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 31, 2013
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Polish Radio Joins the Digital Age
October 31, 2013   
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Following Poland’s switchover to digital terrestrial television, which offers a wider choice of channels than the former analog format, the country’s public broadcaster Polish Radio has also decided to join the digital age.

As of Oct. 1, all Polish Radio stations (Polish Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4) as well as the Polish Radio External Service are available in the DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcast) format endorsed by the European Union. Its introduction means that many more channels can be now squeezed into the frequency spectrum compared with FM. Instead of operating a single station, individual broadcasters can pack in a range of channels into their multiplex, including niche stations.

Polish Radio’s digital package features two new channels: the PR24 news station and the Radio Rhythm pop music station. These two have just received franchises from the National Broadcasting Council. In the next few months, further channels will be joining the multiplex. There will be a station focusing on popular science and technology, a children’s station, and a channel based on the Polish Radio’s sound archives. Local public broadcasters will also be included in the package.

Polish Radio CEO Andrzej Siezieniewski is upbeat about the opportunities offered by the launch of the digital multiplex.

“DAB+ is a technology recommended by the European Broadcasting Union,” he said. “It has been successfully implemented in a number of countries, including Germany, the UK and in Scandinavia. Polish Radio is keen to be the leader in digital change, not just in Poland, but also in the CEE region. As a public medium, we feel obliged to create new opportunities for our listeners and to offer fresh, unique content. Being present in Poland’s first multiplex will allow us to add new specialty channels. In the long run, the signal will cover the whole country, which is not possible in the case of analog technology.”

For expatriates living in Poland, the arrival of digital radio is good news, because the Polish Radio’s External Service will become available terrestrially, not just on cable and satellite as before. The station broadcasts in English, Russian, German, Ukrainian and Belarusian.

Michał Maliszewski, head of the Polish Radio External Service, said, “So far the channel has been mainly addressed to audiences outside Poland. But thanks to DAB+, we are able to address foreign businessmen, visitors and students who want to be in touch with the latest developments, but do not necessarily find the information they need in the mainstream Polish-language media. As an EU member and a country whose economy is faring well despite the global downturn, Poland is a destination for growing numbers of immigrants whose information needs must be catered for. This opens up exciting new opportunities for this station.”

English-language broadcasts can be heard on the Polish Radio External Service digital station at 2 and 8 p.m. The flagship current-affairs program is “News from Poland.” Other shows include “Europe East,” a round-up of developments in the CEE region produced in partnership with other regional broadcasters, the business magazine “Balance,” as well as cultural, travel and lifestyle shows.

Russian speakers can tune in to the channel in their own language at 3 and 7:30 p.m.

The first to be able to pick up the Polish Radio DAB+ multiplex are listeners in Warsaw and Upper Silesia, Poland’s two largest urban areas. Within the next two years, other major cities will be put on the digital radio map, starting with Gdańsk, Cracow, Wrocław, ŁódĽ and Poznań. By 2020, up to 95 percent of Poland will be covered by the signal.

For this strategy to work, it is essential that enough DAB+ radios are sold. For now, Poland’s commercial broadcasters appear reluctant to take a plunge, arguing that this technology requires new receivers, which means an extra cost to the listener. Few DAB+ sets are marketed in Poland as yet, but according to media experts, that is about to change. As new content becomes available, radio dealers are expected to provide a range of receivers, whose prices now start from zl.100.

Compared to traditional analog technology, where only a limited amount of data can be squeezed into the RDS text system in FM car radios, depending on the quality of the set, digital radio offers many extra features. These include an advanced text system with images, slide shows, easy selection of stations based on their ID as displayed on screen, pre-programming transmissions up to seven days before air time, broadcast schedules, weather and traffic information. Some of the products now available in the EU offer docking stations for mobile units, online tuners, record mode and an array of other options.
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