10:55 on Thursday morning was an important occasion in the history of radio in the Czech Republic as it was the exact moment that full digital broadcasting was launched in the country. The new network carries nine Czech Radio stations, some of which were previously only accessible online. For now the service is just available in the capital and Central Bohemia, but there are plans to roll it out to other parts of the country in the next few years.
Just before 11 AM on Thursday the director general of Czech Radio, Peter Duhan, pressed the button to officially launch digital broadcasting from a transmitter on Žižkov TV tower in Prague.
The new service includes nine stations under the banner DAB Praha, with DAB standing for digital audio broadcasting.
Karel Zýka is the head of Czech Radio’s Technical Section.
“DAB broadcasts in what are called single-frequency networks, in which the waves meet and mutually reinforce one another, improving reception. It’s different with analogue broadcasting, where the waves cancel each other out.”
Radio Prague’s director Miroslav Krupička says the move is good news for both Czech Radio and listeners.
“The main advantage is a wider choice, because in this multiplex will be not only the stations of the public Czech Radio but also its digital only or internet only stations, such as Radio Wave or D major [D-dur], which is a classical music station on the internet only.
“It will now be possible to receive those stations from the air, just using a small digital receiver.
“The other advantage is the quality of sound. The sound is much better in digital, in DAB, in general.”
Digital broadcasting is due to be expanded to Brno, Ostrava and other parts of the country within two years, but for now it only reaches Prague and Central Bohemia and can be received by less than 20 percent of the population.
Another drawback, says Miroslav Krupička, is that the public broadcaster Czech Radio is the only station involved.
“Commercial radio stations are not keen to start digital broadcasting because it’s an additional cost for them. But there are other let’s say disadvantages, or cons, of digital broadcasting.
“Another one could be the availability of digital receivers. They are simply not available everywhere. You have to go to a specialized or big shop, and they are not cheap.”
Czech Radio’s Karel Zýka says, however, that digital is simply the way of the future.
“The analogue world is closed, because of the frequency sources. All the frequencies that are available are being used. And if we want to expand our range of programming, the number of stations and genres, digitalisation is the only alternative.”
Full digitalisation remains some way off, however. In the Czech Republic it will not come before 2025, when current licenses for analogue broadcasting come to an end.