Why driving and listening to the radio is only fun in some German states
I have been waiting for this December for years. Finally, there are clear conditions for customers and the automotive industry with regard to digital radio in Germany: as of December 21, all radios that can display the program or station name must enable reception and playback of digital broadcasting services. The law passed by the federal and state governments differentiates between car radios in new cars (§ 48 (4) TKG) and all other commercially available radio devices (§ 48 (5) TKG). For me, this point in time could have come much earlier - because it is a first important step in the digitization of broadcasting, with the goal of ultimately switching off FM reception as in other countries in Europe. Back in 2018, I argued here on the specialist debate portal Meinungsbarometer.info that we need to back up the digitization of broadcasting with concrete milestones and a specific timetable.
But are there already programs to be heard universally via DAB+ everywhere in Germany? According to coverage figures from network operator Media Broadcast from October 2020, the highways in Germany are almost completely covered by DAB+ at 99 percent. That sounds pretty decent, but in practice (and I'm a frequent driver) the connection keeps breaking down in tunnels. No one seems to feel responsible here. Sometimes individual stations like Schwarzwaldradio around Markus Knoll get involved to close such reception gaps locally in tunnels. As praiseworthy as this commitment is, it would be desirable to have an overarching initiative by all the German states to enable uninterrupted, continuous reception of digital radio in Germany.
Why, for example, can I listen to the MDR multiplex in addition to the programs of the first DAB+ federal multiplex in the two tunnels near Jena, but in the tunnel on the A4 Königsheimer-Berge, which is so important for Dresden, I can only receive conventional FM programming and no DAB+ at all? Why aren't the new programs of the 2nd federal multiplex also automatically heard in the tunnels, while they can also be received terrestrially outside the tunnel? And why, in the worst case, do I drive into the tunnel entrance with my favorite DAB+ program, then have to listen to an FM program inside the tunnel that I don't want to hear at all, and possibly come out again with FM on a completely different station at the back of the tunnel? And a safety-relevant question has also not yet been clarified: Who pays for the so-called emergency intercom systems so that they can also be heard on DAB+? So far, no one has been able to explain all this to me.
Are the concepts missing here again? Are there once again far too many market players with different interests at the starting line? I would hope that the digital radio obligation for new cars would also spur the discussion about this still unresolved DAB+ tunnel feed. Especially those radio listeners who might now buy a new car with DAB+ must also get the best program service from the outset. And that also in tunnels! Otherwise, the acceptance of DAB+, which has just been built up so laboriously, can end in frustration after passing through a highway tunnel. And that's not what we want, is it?