World Radio Switzerland (WRS), the only English-language radio station to be broadcast nationwide, has gone on the air.
Both WRS and a German-language news station – which was also launched on Monday - are part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation's strategy to promote Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB).
WRS takes over from the commercial station, WRG, and is now fully integrated as a unit of the SBC, swissinfo's parent company. The English station and DRS 4 News are available on DAB, online and via satellite and cable. WRS will remain on FM in the Geneva region.
The target audience, WRS says, is Switzerland's expatriate community of native English speakers and Anglophiles who enjoy listening to English-language content and music.
"According to Federal Statistics Office census from 2000, about 30 per cent of the active Swiss population speaks English at work," WRS director, Philippe Mottaz, told swissinfo.
Mottaz is optimistic DAB technology will eventually be accepted by Swiss listeners.
"I truly believe that the global DAB offer to come will encourage people to switch," he said.
The director of the new English station also says WRS news will become more Swiss-oriented. This is a shift from its former reliance on international content taken from the BBC.
"The BBC is a very strong partner and will remain so. But there is one thing the BBC cannot do, talk about this country," Mottaz added.
"WRS will dedicate its resources to create compelling, engaging content about Switzerland for its audience. It need not be in a 'news' format. What matters will be the way we'll tell a foreign or unfamiliar audience what they should know if they want to understand the country they live in."
The new German-language station, DRS 4 News, will present current affairs reports and business and sport news every 30 minutes round the clock and repeat the main headlines every quarter of an hour.
The DAB station, which can also be heard online, via cable and satellite, will re-broadcast flagship current affairs programming from German-language public radio.
Switzerland's public broadcaster
WRS and DRS 4 News expand the offer of the SBC, the largest provider of electronic media in Switzerland. The SBC's multilingual offer includes seven television channels and 18 radio stations in the four national languages.
It is complemented by websites, including swissinfo, in a total of ten languages as well as teletext in German, French and Italian.
The services offered by swissinfo are targeted at international audiences.
swissinfo with agencies
WRS went on the air for the first time on November 5.
It takes over from WRG, which broadcast as a commercial radio station in the city and region for ten years.
WRS is a fully integrated unit of the SBC.
It is currently available via DAB in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Lucerne and Ticino and will become available across the country in 2008 on DAB, cable and satellite.
Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB)
DAB is a technique for the digital transmission of radio signals which industry officals say will replace FM radio in the medium to long term.
DAB technology was developed in Europe and has been adopted by all European countries, Australia, a number of Asian countries (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, China and India), as well as Canada, Mexico and Paraguay.
The United States has launched its own digital-radio standard called IBOC (In Band On Channel).
The country with the widest availability of DAB is Britain. About 85% of British households can receive DAB, and the number of DAB radio stations is now more than 400.
In Switzerland the number of radio stations is currently limited to 14, but DAB reception is already available to 80% of the population, and there are specific extension plans both as far as availability and the number of programmes is concerned.
DAB is said to offer a number of advantages over today's VHF, medium-wave, long-wave and short-wave transmission: wider choice of radio stations, better reception and ease of use.