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DAB shifted to back burner

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Digital Radio
OTTAWA - With three different digital subscription radio applications facing the CRTC this year, Canadian radio broadcasters appear to have shuffled digital over-the-air radio to the sidelines.

It was announced this week that at a special meeting of its members held on July 21, Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. (DRRI), an organization mandated to ensure the promotion of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), restructured the organization, appointed a new board of directors, and endorsed a plan to re-focus its mandate, says the press release. Glenn O'Farrell, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, was appointed DRRI interim president.

The subscription digital radio applications, as reported by www.broadcastermagazine.com, are from Toronto entrepreneur John Bitove and XM Satellite Radio; Standard Broadcasting and CBC along with SIRIUS Satellite Radio; and a terrestrial digital application from CHUM Limited.

The restructuring means DRRI, an independent corporation, has entered into an agreement with the CAB in order to achieve greater efficiency and take advantage of available expertise to reduce its operating costs, says the press release. The CAB will provide DRRI with professional services, as well as ensure DRRI management and overhead.

Part of the restructuring will see DRRI suspend its marketing activities, meaning promotion of DAB technology to the consumer will cease.

"With its new board of directors and the increased efficiency that will be achieved with its re-structuring in a constantly evolving broadcasting landscape, DRRI is now in an even stronger position to effectively lead the DAB roll out in Canada," said Glenn O'Farrell, interim president of DRRI, in the statement.

"DRRI will shift its primary focus away from marketing in order to keep track of digital audio broadcasting activities and to address the policy and regulatory issues fundamental to DAB advancement in Canada," adds the release.

"An engineering consultant will be hired shortly to closely follow all DAB activities and to manage the policy, regulatory and technical files. This consultant will also develop and manage liaison with CRTC, Industry Canada, Canadian Heritage and Communications Research Centre, and will serve as Canadian DAB point of contact with WorldDAB, receiver industry, auto industry and retailers," says the newser.

The DRRI board also expressed its appreciation to Duff Roman, the president of DRRI since 1997, "for his work, dedication and commitment to moving forward the DRRI objectives for the promotion of DAB in Canada."

The DRRI board of directors also expressed its appreciation for the work of the DRRI executive director, David Garforth, who will be leaving at the end of August, as well as for his commitment and the assistance he provided in the development and establishment of DRRI since 1992. The board also expressed its appreciation to Roy Hennessy and David Bray of Hennessy & Bray for their innovation, dedication and hard work in the marketing and promotion of DAB in Canada for the last four years.

Besides O'Farrell, members of the new board of DRRI include: John Hayes, president of Corus Radio (v-p), Ray Carnovale, vice-president and chief technology officer, CBC/Radio-Canada (secretary); Michel Arpin, senior advisor, government and regulatory affairs, Astral Media (treasurer); Michael Caine, president and general manager, Whiteoaks Communications Group Limited (director); Rael Merson, president and CEO, Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. (director); Duff Roman, vice-president, industry affairs and digital operations, CHUM Ltd. (director); Gary Slaight, president and CEO, Standard Radio (director).

DRRI is a non-profit joint initiative of major private broadcasters (Astral Radio Inc., CHUM Ltd., Corus Entertainment Inc., Rogers Media, Standard Radio Inc.), a number of smaller private broadcasters, and public broadcasters (CBC/Radio Canada) with the support of the Canadian government. DRRI's mandate is the introduction of digital audio broadcasting services across Canada. DAB is the replacement technology for current AM and FM analog transmission.
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