Among radio broadcasters - and the consultants who love them – the debate continues about what, exactly, is the digital future. In Norway it’s a matter of some urgency as in a few months national radio channels will migrate to the DAB platform, leaving the FM platform to local stations. There are, still, many opinions.
“The road to digital radio is the internet,” said communications consultant Hans-Petter Nygård-Hansen in a debate about DAB with MTG P4 director Trygve Rønningen on TV2 (May 1). “We’re taking a very expensive detour through DAB, based on old technology and old decision that were taken before the internet came along. Young people today are not going to want a DAB radio. They’re going to want their smartphones… and consume everything digital.” (See more about digital radio here)
Mr. Rønningen’s counter-argument was equally robust. “If you sit in a car with internet radio you discover how bad the web is. Radio must be free and the internet is not free.”
Indeed, the DAB family of platforms has been around a good long time, long enough for academics to explore where, if anywhere, it sits in the greater digital realm. “We are facing a digital ruin,” offered Leuphana University professor of digital cultures Hermann Rotermund, quoted by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (May 1). DAB was “the engineering fantasy of public broadcasters in the 1980’s.” He noted that there are six and a half DAB devices in Germany after several years of promotion compared with 300 million FM radio receivers.
“Marketable services” promised by DAB proponents, from navigation to podcasts, “emerged on the internet,” he said. “In financially and institutionally protected public broadcasting, utopian cloud kingdoms were built, never grounded by consumer needs (or) market analysis.”
Private-sector resistance to digital radio platforms is “less inspired,” he observed. “Business models of internet applications require… a different mindset than broadcasting. Successful online offerings require concepts other than cost per thousand.”
“Spotify is to radio what Uber is to taxi services,” mused media academic Regula Stämpfli to kleinreport.ch (May 3). “New media does not exist, it connects.”
Swedish telecom Telia has begun offering customers access to several social media platforms without the usual data-plan charges. Publishers and broadcasters are horrified, calling the new offer nothing short of distorting competition and attacking net neutrality. Telia said they’re just listening to their customers.
A petition circulated by 27 Swedish media operators, widely publicized, “urged the government and parliament, in their role as owners, to ensure that Telia acts as a role model when it comes to net neutrality and the right to free speech on the internet.” Telia announced the new social media surfing plan in mid-April, almost a guaranteed hit with young Swedes detaching from old media.
Telecoms everywhere are also listening to their accountants, engineers and shareholders. They deliver internet and mobile access, charging by the second and byte. Some are getting into the TV business. They have a history with monopolies. They are not your grandmother’s phone company. The Swedish State is Telia’s largest shareholder.
In a press statement, quoted by Svenska Dagbladet (May 3), Telia reminded everybody that its established media partners include everybody complaining. Working with Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and Kik provides an opportunity to root out “problems that unfortunately exist in social media in the form of threats and harassment. We understand and welcome the fact that this leads to questions about net neutrality.” (See more about social media here)
“As society changes,” the Telia statement continues, “we must also do so when customers choose to communicate with each other in new ways. It is our duty to affirm and to facilitate this, not fight against it or passively look on.”
World Press Freedom Day typically attracts shout-outs from all the important people. Celebrated on May 3rd, there have been many. “Without this fundamental right, people are less free and less empowered. With it, we can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"The EU reaffirms its determination to promote and support, freedoms of opinion and expression as rights to be exercised by everyone everywhere, based on the principles of equality, nondiscrimination and universality - through any media and regardless of frontiers," intoned EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.
The major commemoration this year is being held in Helsinki, Finland under the auspice of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) and the Finnish Ministry for Education and Culture. Finland has topped press freedom indexes for most of this century. (See more about press/media freedom here)
In other parts of the world the day has been noted in the usual way. Authorities in Turkey put more media workers on trial. Taraf newspaper columnist Murat Belge faced court (May 2) for, no surprise, insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I am a member of one of Turkey's biggest clubs,” he said, quoted by Aktif Haber (May 3), “the club of people who have insulted Erdogan."
Government-controlled Polskie Radio fired radio channel Trojka news director Grazyna Medrzycka-Gesicka and deputy news director Tomasz Lawnicki, reported wirtualnemedia.pl (May 2), the latest “cultural” purge. The Austrian section of Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) awarded its press freedom prize, in concert with World Press Freedom Day, to Polish journalists. "We have targeted efforts of the new government to destroy the pluralism of the media in Poland and to promote propaganda,” said RSF Austria president Rubina Möhring, quoted by der Standard (May 2).
The wants and needs of a youthful audience provide continual challenge for radio broadcasters. The entire media realm jitters uncontrollably in the quest to understand young people. Fancy data crunching doesn’t help much.
Public broadcaster Radio France has its radio channel for young people, ratings-challenged Mouv’. A year ago director general Mathieu Gallet strongly suggested the channels’ survival on the FM band depended on a better showing in the Mediamétrie audience estimates because “FM broadcasting costs money.” Just under half the Mouv’ budget goes to transmission costs.
Changes at Mouv’ over the last year or so have focused on social media, considered all-important for reaching young people, and, of course, more music. The national ratings have budged a bit. “The average age of our listeners is now 30 years old against 34 years in 2014,” said Mouv’ director Bruno Laforestie, quoted by Les Echos (April 29). Listeners to Skyrock, the national commercial hip-hop music channel, average 29 years. (See more about media in France here)
It’s not good enough, apparently. Mouv’ will now “refocus” on 15 to 24 year olds with an end of year deadline for achieving a 1% reach share, double the recently released Mediamétrie national audience estimate. Don’t, for a minute, believe that public broadcasters ignore the ratings. If moving Mouv’ musically more toward hip-hop and away from indie rock doesn’t work in the next few months, it’s off to the internet.
UK public broadcaster BBC started refocusing Radio 1 toward younger listeners a couple of years ago, mostly under pressure from commercial broadcasters. Chasing away older, established listerner worked: ratings, quite expectedly, crashed. Young people in the UK, teens mostly, have deserted traditional radio for digital platforms.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung was the lead news organization in the Panama Papers reporting. A “walk-in” offered them a couple terabytes of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. (See more about investigative reporting in the digital age here) The rest is to be continued.
Web traffic for Süddeutsche Zeitung during the first ten days of reporting added about 10% growth. English-language translations, it seems, boosted the traffic to 7.5 million page views for Panama Papers related material, about half what the website normally gets daily. “This is a first in our history,” said chief digital editor Stefan Plöchinger, quoted by dwdl.de (April 29), “and shows that the English translations brought in more than paid international image building.”
Less than pleased is giant Spanish and Portuguese media house Prisa, principal owner of El Pais. Reporters working for the company have been told, reported El Mundo (April 27), not to appear on TV channel La Sexta talk shows. La Sexta was part of the ICIJ consortium that reported on Panama Papers, which inked Prisa president Juan Luis Cebrián to Mossack Fonseca’s primary work of setting up off-shore legal entities. La Sexta is owned by Atresmedia.
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
“Paris will always be Paris,” headlined French radio business news portal La Lettre Pro de la Radio (April 27). That sums up the latest Greater Paris (IDF) Mediamétrie radio audience estimates. Results for Greater Paris are never quite like the whole of France.
RTL still leads, up slightly year on year to 13.3% market share. Other national channels offering lots of news or a news-talk mix, mostly, had a bad day similar to the national audience estimates released a week earlier. Public channel France Inter, still number 2, dropped to 11.4% from 12.0%. After suffering a huge drop in the national rating, Europe 1 moved up to 3rd place, 7.8% from 7.5%. (See Greater Paris IDF radio market share trend chart here) (See France national radio share trend chart here)
RMC took a real drubbing, dropping to 4th with 6.4% down from 8.1% one year on. All-news France Info held 6th place, 4.4% market share down from 4.9%. Also lower was FIP (France Inter Paris), 2.0% market share from 2.6%.
Similar to the national survey results, national music channels were mostly up. NRJ kept 5th place while dropping slightly to 4.9% market share. Skyrock was up a bit to 3.8% market share. After that, Nostalgie was up to 3.3% from 2.3% year on year. Fun Radio had the biggest gain and best showing ever in Greater Paris, 3.2% market share from 1.8%. Both Radio Classique and public channel France Musique were up significantly.
Local Paris stations were mostly unchanged, except for Radio Latina and Tropiques FM, both noticably lower.