Analogue FM radio is still a popular method for broadcasting programming. Low-cost broadcasting equipment, simple computer-assisted production and transmission, and simple and low-cost radio receivers helped spread this technology. However, mere technical equipment does not suffice for establishing a radio station.
The procedures for establishing a radio station are simple, but necessary. If you want to establish a radio station, you have to meet the following conditions:
- you must have registered radio activity (60.100) in the Court Register or the Register of Companies
- entered your radio station into the Media Register of the Ministry of Culture
- obtained a radio broadcasting license for your station from the Agency
FM radio additionally required "space" in the radio frequency spectrum. An important and often underrated factor for a radio station is the radio frequency itself, which is essential for disseminating programming over radio waves. The Agency awards the license for using radio frequencies with the Decision on awarding radio frequencies (DARF). The license for using a radio frequency, i.e. a DARF for FM radio can only be obtained through a public tender.
Frequencies for FM radio
FM radio is basically analogue and utilizes the frequency band between 87.5 and 108 MHz. The transmitter broadcasts the programme on a frequency and the nearby receivers set to this frequency can receive it. In order to avoid interference in reception the same or nearby frequency can only be used in a sufficient distance from the coverage area. This means that the number of frequencies that can be used is very limited. Since radio waves do not know state borders, frequency utilization must be coordinated with other countries.
The use of FM radio frequencies is covered by an international agreement, which includes frequency coordination and a frequency plan. In Slovenia the Agency has the authority to manage the radio frequency spectrum, and handles all the procedures related to this agreement. These procedures include the activities for international coordination of new radio frequencies in the scope of technical capabilities.
Sometimes holders of the Decisions for awarding radio frequencies (DARF) want to change the technical parameters of their radio stations. Every such change requires a review of the impact on existing stations and international coordination of new technical parameters. The Agency issues a decision with new parameters only in the event that the change results in the efficient utilization of the radio frequency spectrum, that the change does not cause interference with existing radio stations, and that all the required approvals have been obtained from any potentially affected country. The practice shows that many such procedures end unsuccessfully, as changes are simply impossible without imposing a harmful impact on existing stations because the radio frequency spectrum is overcrowded.
The Agency may award the rights obtained by the Republic of Slovenia to utilize radio frequencies to interested users through public tenders. It should be mentioned that practically all the frequencies for FM radio that Slovenia has the right to have already been awarded. This means that the options for adding a new radio station into the radio frequency spectrum are exceptionally low.
Another option for obtaining a frequency is through acquisition of an existing radio programming publisher. The legislation also provides for the instrument of transferring DARFs to another legal or natural person; however, the new publisher and decision holder must adhere to the existing programming, technical, and other requirements related to the station and the related frequencies.
New and existing radio programming publishers may enter a tender for radio frequencies. It applies for every awarded frequency that it must be in use within one year after the decision was issued. The holder of the DARF is obligated to pay an annual fee for using radio frequencies.
Even though analogue FM is still the dominant broadcasting technology for radio programming, we also have the digital radio networks DAB+ in the VHF bands (174-230 MHz).
DAB+ technology network upgrades the more than 20 years-old DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) technology and certain advantages with more efficient sound encoding (HE-AAC v2) and a better sound quality, and broadcasting more than 10 stations over one multiplex, i.e. network. Besides radio programming (i.e. audio) the new platform also supports multimedia content that can complement radio programming or provide completely new services, such as text and graphic notifications related to the broadcast programming, an electronic programme guide, traffic information as text or graphic notifications.
The introduction of digital radio does not mean that the analogue FM radio will be switched off. FM radio will stay in Slovenia, which means that users will be able to listen to existing radio stations just as before. The DAB+ network operates parallel to the analogue FM networks, as digital is not a substitute for analogue FM radio, but a parallel path mainly providing additional capabilities.
Difference between analogue and digital broadcasting
The key difference between analogue and digital radio broadcasting is that with analogue broadcasting (FM radio) a single frequency is connected to one station, while with digital broadcasting a single frequency can be used to broadcast a pack of stations – multiplex. Consequently with digital networks we divide the subjects into programming publishers and network operators.
Another difference is in how frequencies are utilized. With analogue networks the transmitters operate on different frequencies, while with digital network we can create single-frequency networks, where all the transmitters in a network are synchronized and broadcast in the same frequency. This ensures more efficient utilization of the radio frequency spectrum. Interested operators may obtain frequencies for digital radio networks through public tenders.
Publishers of radio programming lease capacities in existing multiplexes (digital packs of stations), and, in order to do so, they must first obtain a license to disseminate in the digital broadcasting through a public tender.
Digital terrestrial television
Terrestrial broadcasting of television programming is possible through digital television networks. A transmitter does not broadcast just a single TV station, but a digital pack of stations – multiplex.
Frequencies for the digital television network can be obtained through a public tender, with the Agency tendering the frequencies (television stations) of single-frequency networks in individual geographic areas. The winning provider in the tender obtains a decision on awarding radio frequencies, making them an operator of the digital television network. They must provide broadcasting services (space in the multiplex) to all interested parties under the same conditions. The network operator is also the multiplex operator, and must ensure encoding and multiplexing of the channels.
A multiplex broadcast on a digital television network can fit more TV channels because of used compression procedures – in Slovenia the MPEG-4 i.e. H.264 is used. An operator of a multiplex can broadcast radio and television stations that have obtained a license to disseminate over digital broadcasting on the area of the new network that the operator manages. Interested publishers can obtain such a license through public tenders published by the Agency.
Network operator can also broadcast additional services, with the most popular one being an electronic programme guide (EPG).