Analog FM radio is still a very popular way of program broadcasting. Cheap transmission equipment, simple computerized production and broadcasting, and simple and cheap radios have contributed to the wide use of this technology. However, it takes more than just technical equipment to set up a radio station.
What is required to set up a radio station?
The first thing required is a radio program. Procedures for establishing a radio program are simple, however necessary.
An FM radio also needs “space” in the radio frequency spectrum. Radio frequency is an important and often underestimated element in establishing a radio station, since it is necessary to broadcast the program via radio waves. The Agency grants the right to use radio frequencies with the decision on allocating radio frequencies (DARF). The right to use radio frequencies for FM radio i.e. DARF can only be acquired through a public tender.
Frequencies for FM Radio
FM radio is basically analog and is broadcast in the 87.5-108 MHz radio frequency band. The transmitter transmits a program on a certain frequency, and nearby receivers set to this frequency receive the program. To prevent interference in reception, the same or close frequency can only be used in areas sufficiently distant from the coverage area. This strongly limits the number of available frequencies. Sine radio waves do not acknowledge state borders, so the use of frequencies must be coordinated with other countries.
Use of frequencies for FM radio is regulated with an international agreement, which in addition to procedures for harmonizing frequencies also comprises a plan. In Slovenia, the radio frequency spectrum is managed by the Agency, which performs all the procedures related to this agreement. These procedures include activities for the international harmonization of new radio frequencies within the limits of technical capabilities.
Holders of decisions on allocating radio frequencies (DARF) often wish to change technical parameters of radio stations. Each such change requires examination of the impact on existing stations and international harmonization of the new technical parameters. The Agency issues a decision with new parameters only if the change represents an efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum, if it does not result in interruptions for the existing radio stations, and if all necessary consents from potentially affected countries are acquired. The practice shows that many such procedures conclude unsuccessfully, since changes that would not cause a negative impact on existing stations are impossible due to high density on the radio frequency spectrum.
How to acquire frequencies?
The Agency may allocate the rights to use radio frequencies held by the Republic of Slovenia to interested parties through public tenders. It should however be stressed that practically all the FM radio frequencies granted to Slovenia have already been allocated. For this reason the chances of introducing a new radio station to the radio frequency spectrum are extremely small.
An alternative way of acquiring a frequency is by acquiring an existing radio program publisher. The law recognizes the instrument of transferring decisions on allocation of radio frequencies (DARF) to another party, however the new publisher and decision holder must follow the existing programming, technical, and other requirements regarding the program and frequencies from these decisions.
Tenders for radio frequencies are open to new and existing radio program publishers. Use of each allocated frequency must commence within one year of the day the decision was issued. The holder of the decision on allocating radio frequencies (DARF) must also pay an annual fee for using radio frequencies. The annual fee depends on several factor and amounts to approximately €200 for smaller transmission points, €2,000 for medium transmission points, and €20,000 for large transmission points.
Mostly due to the need for extra capacities for radio program transmission, numerous countries have started considering a transition to digital radio transmission. This can be done in several ways:
radio programs can be placed in digital TV multiplexes,
other frequency ranges (VHF band III, L band) can be used for the digital transmission of radio programs,
possible ways of digitalizing the 87.5-108 MHz frequency band, which is currently earmarked for FM radio, are currently being examined.