In 1987, the European Commission sponsored a research project called Eureka 147, in order to promote digital radio broadcasting with CD quality. In 1988 the first tests were carried out in Geneva, and ten years later broadcasting began in Spain. The most important radio stations showed up with few enthusiasm to the call for tenders that the Spanish and the Catalan Governments launched from the year 2000 onwards, and for the last eight years they have been broadcasting with no audience. The estimated investment on digital radio has been of 50 million euros in Spain, an amount that got to 350 million thanks to the help of the other six European countries that believed in this technology. In Catalonia the fiasco was accomplished in November 2008, when after ten years without an audience, the Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals -the Public Catalan Media Corporation- brought digital radio broadcasting to a halt.
Before digital radio started broadcasting, a large number of technical tests where carried out without previous reliable research about the market's needs. It is said that digital radio offers more channels and more quality, but no attention was paid to the fact that audience, indeed, was already satisfied with FM quality. Moreover, in ten years the number of digital radio stations has not overcome the number of traditional ones, which on the meanwhile have found solutions as the RDS, to counterweight another advantage digital radio was supposed to enjoy: the possibility of travelling around without having to follow the station through dial change.
The potential audience had also to buy new transistors, and its price, no less than 100 euros, was not something digital radio promoters took into account taken account, despite the fact that manufacturers since the very beginning warned them that digital technology did not allow them to offer cheaper devices. The reluctance of radio broadcasters did not stop politicians and scientists, which did not identified the new needs.
What have we learnt out of it?
Only some geniuses and visionaries have been able to create a new market. The fact that a technology is possible does not necessarily mean that people is willing to pay for it, and the fact that Institutions and Companies support it does not mean they did the necessary previous research: they were probably just thinking that they didn't want to be left behind.