Delegates Talk Strengths of Over-the-Air Radio at Latest Digital Radio Summit

February 16, 2017

GENEVA—At the recent Digital Radio Summit, which occurred in Geneva on February 8th, delegates heard about the many challenges facing broadcasters: streaming services and podcasts are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among younger audiences, and voice-activated personal assistants (think Amazon's Alexa) are hitting the mainstream.  Does radio risk becoming just one of many easily-accessible listening options?  Here’s what was said by various speakers, as reported in EBU news.

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The challenges to broadcast radio are very real, but it remains in a position of strength, with unique attributes that cannot be replaced by online-only audio services.  As one example, an analysis by Marcello Lombardo of the EBU on the relative costs of distributing radio via DAB versus the internet made it clear that IP-only delivery would be much too expensive for broadcasters and listeners. "A DAB backbone with low data hybrid services on top is the way forward," he said.  (Think RadioDNS here.) 

EBU’s Head of Radio Graham Dixon made strong arguments as to why broadcast radio can and will remain relevant: it offers a service that is not mediated by gatekeepers, such as social media platforms (or large cellular companies) that may have undue influence on what services are made available, and it is the most reliable network in emergency situations, where mobile broadband networks risk becoming overloaded. 

As broadcasters, we don’t want to bury our heads in the sand, though; we can’t simply keep saying that mobile networks “risk becoming overloaded” during an emergency, when there are many, many enterprises working on vast new mobile networks.  The notion that broadcasters will be the only ones able to support the dissemination of emergency information during disasters may soon be obsolete. 

“Efforts to establish a common Europe-wide receiver compliance mark for digital radio and to encourage the EU to create a regulatory instrument that would phase out analog-only receivers are just two examples of the search for a common denominator in Europe. The Summit also heard about an industry initiative to standardize digital radio access via smartphone apps, the Open Mobile Radio Interface,” according to the same article.

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