DAB: Success or Failure? Depends on What You Read

Recent reports from Austria and the UK serve to illustrate the point
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LOS ANGELES � Predictions about the future of digital radio, and indeed, of radio in general, vary considerably as one looks at news from different countries across Europe. Not surprisingly, the same bits of news are sometimes spun in opposite directions in an attempt to prove the author�s point. Recent reports from Austria and the UK serve to illustrate the point.

For starters, let�s look at the news from Austria. I should note first that DAB+ tests have been going on in Vienna for about two years now. That�s hardly enough time to expect a new technology catch on�although it sometimes does happen quickly.

Ablog postfrom Digital Radio Insider says that, according to the Austrian community radio association Verband Freier Radios �sterreich (VFRO), non-commercial private radio broadcasters are not interested in DAB radio. VFRO says that DAB + technology is �moribund� and obsolete as well as being �economically completely nonsensical.� Furthermore, FM �prohibitions and switch-offs� would not drive the listeners to DAB+ but rather to streaming and podcasts.

Some private radio companies in Austria are not giving in quite so easily, according to the same post. �Because the market outlook for terrestrial digital radio in Austria is bad, private radio companies want drastic measures: The sale of non-digital radios should be banned, and DAB+ should be mandatory for all new cars.� The state communications authorities in European countries typically take a much more proactive approach to what broadcasters can and can�t do than does the FCC (in case you haven�t noticed that).

And finally, one more point from the same blog: �...in the UK despite a nationwide distribution of a total of 300 digital programs broadcast decreed in 2015 only 54% of UK households have a DAB radio, after 20 years of operation.�

Let�s examine news from the UK now, reported onradiotoday.co.uk. Keep in mind that this information is from Ben Hart, the head of Commercial Radio at Arqiva, a major supplier of broadcast transmission facilities in the UK. �The major story from the first quarterly RAJAR results for 2016 was undoubtedly the continued growth of digital radio usage, with radio listening in the home through a digital platform surpassing 50% for the first time.

�The RAJAR results showed that commercial radio has fallen slightly behind the BBC since the last quarter of 2015, with 34.28 million weekly listeners, compared to the BBC�s 34.87 million. Despite this, when you analyze the results further and compare them to the same time last year, commercial radio has in fact fared better than it would first appear, increasing its average weekly audience reach by more than 1%.�

�According to the RAJAR results, an average of 47.8 million adults or 89% of the adult UK population tuned in to radio each week during the last quarter, and the total average number of weekly hours listened to radio was 1.01 Billion.

�Those certainly aren�t the statistics of an industry that is struggling � in fact I would argue that it�s the mark of an industry that is prospering in an age of technological advancement.

�As the evidence shows, a vast proportion of those millions of listeners are joining us in the digital world, and those numbers continue to rise day-by- day. 25% of adults claim to be listening to radio via a mobile phone or tablet at least once a month, for example.�

Let me borrow from Mark Twain here: News of the death of radio has been greatly exaggerated. My advice to readers is to study multiple and disparate sources, as we do for Digital Radio Update, and then draw your own conclusions.

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