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ftm Radio Page - week ending March 23, 2018

Digital transition has, once again, changed
"now would be premature"

Radio fans got down to business at the RadioDays Europe Monday (March 19) in Vienna, Austria. That meant countless presentations about the latest cool gizmos, playlists, jingles, hiring DJs, firing DJs and, of course, selling ads. Opportunities to mingle abound.

Digital radio platforms, particularly digital audio broadcasting (DAB), have been a main talking-point of these meetings for two decades. Mixed within that has been, for DAB supporters, the hope, plea and promise of replacing analogue radio platforms, FM and MW/AM, with this standard for digital progress. One of the big “focus” presentations at RadioDays Europe over the weekend was devoted to the headline achievement for DAB supporters: FM shut-off in Norway, completed last December. (See more about media in Norway here)

For nearly three hours, Norwegian broadcasters and government authorities told the story. National radio channels in Norway have lost audience. Local stations, most of which did not decamp to DAB, gained. Bauer Media’s Norway chief executive Lasse Kokvik said audiences losses for radio through the transition were less than digital TV switch-over, reported radionytt.no (March 18). He went on to extol the virtues of selling ads across many channels. It’s all about totals.

Representing local DAB support group Digitalradio Norge chief executive Ole Jorgen Torvmark said “98% of listeners still listen to the radio” although “many have not replaced all their FM radios,” according to the radionytt.no reporter on the scene. Line Langnes, legal advisor with media regulator Medietilsynet, noted that those 187 local FM stations have operating licenses until 2022. After that, maybe off or maybe not. From the Ministry of Culture, Oyvind Christensen explained the politics; strengthening freedom of speech and competition within the radio sector. He also said the transition was “a mess” and became “more angry” than expected.

Later on, DAB supporters got a real punch in the gut. Shutting down the FM platform has long been seen as their ultimate victory; very good for receiver sales. Norway is first. Other national media regulators are waiting patiently: Denmark and Switzerland. These are small countries.

Germany and France are not even close for their own specific reasons. But in the UK media regulator Ofcom said they’d take a serious look at FM shut-down once digital listening passed 50%. It’s there, if you count online listening. DAB listening rests at about 35%. (See more about digital radio here)

"Great progress has been made but switchover now would be premature,” said BBC radio and music director Bob Shennan to the assembled radio fans, quoted by the BBC (March 19). ”For now we believe audiences are best served by a mixed economy.” A bowling pin dropped.

“We all once thought that DAB was the only digital future of radio, but audiences want choice,” he added. “We now know DAB is important, but only part of the story, along with FM and the internet. We need to do more before we consider a switchover in the UK, and for that to be genuinely audience-led.”

He also announced a new executive to oversee podcasts.


Radio Page week ending March 16, 2018
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