“What is a radio for?” This is the question the next generation of media consumers may end up asking the question when faced with a small box with no screen nor internet connectivity.
According to a recent Guardian article, the radio industry is failing to attract the next generation of listeners, as it has failed to make a leap to a cool, useful, shiny device, plus “it thinks it knows what you want to listen to”. Radio receivers will need to be multifunctional to survive, but it’s unclear what shape that will take. The article asks if it’s telling that many radios for sale in department stores these days are overtly retro in styling.
The article goes onto point out that in India, where almost all mobile phones sold come with an inbuilt FM receiver, 94 per cent of radio listening occurs through phones. Meanwhile in the UK, radio listening on a phone is more likely to be through an app, and it only accounts for one per cent of listening.
Can radios sets make the “smart” transition as phones and TVs have done? Or will they be rendered irrelevant in the face of Google, Spotify and Apple? But as much of the world lacks mobile data coverage, Wi-Fi, or they remain unaffordable to a local audience, FM, AM and short wave are vital. Another bastion of radio is the car: “one place where this [listening] habit dies hardest and where it’s most likely to be given a new lease.” wrote the Guardian.
At the last month’s International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), discussions of radio’s future focused on transition from FM to digital radio standards DAB and DRM, and whether internet radio was a threat or an opportunity. Could incompatibility issues be relieved by greater use of the “Euro-chip” which integrates several digital standards and FM into one radio receiver? Commentators at IBC echoed the importance of getting radio into smartphones, wrote Radio World. “Broadcast needs to be in the phone,” said Ford Ennals of Digital Radio UK, “and it has to happen this year.”
No doubt these and other issues will be tackled at the Radio Days Europe conference in March 2014. The organisation welcomes any suggestions or idea for the conference. The CBA also attended as an “ideamaker” for the conference earlier this month. Stay tuned for the programme.