The Future Of Radio?

27 07 2009

Interesting – the future of a medium that is likely to stay around for a while?

This idea for a post came from this man, James Cridland. If you click that link, It will take you to the blog where he is talking about the future of radio. Radio, as a medium, has been going longer than TV and the Internet. Much longer than the latter.

There has been much debate over how teenagers (in particular) do things recently – it started with Matthew Robson producing a research note for investment bank Morgan Stanley. He said Twitter is not for Teens, and amongst other things, this:

His peers are also put off by intrusive advertising so they prefer listening to advert-free music on websites such as Last.fm to traditional radio.
The Guardian

Now James Cridland asks this:

Do you think we talk too much about platforms? Or is the most important thing DAB versus the internet, FM versus FAB, DAB+ versus DAB, etc? Is this fundemental to our future?

Well I would be interested in knowing what you think, but so would he, so pop on over to his blog and let him know.

However, my opinions?

Well, as far as my house goes, it doesn’t really matter. For started, my house is a pub. We have over 10 radios in the house and pub. Here we go (from what i can remember)

-A Sky box with all the digital radio channels.
-An FM/AM radio in the DVD player.
-A DAB radio in the kitchen
-An FM/AM clock radio in the spare bedroom.
-A DAB/FM Radio in my room, as well as a FM/AM Clock radio and a stereo.
-An FM/AM clock radio in my brothers room.
-A DAB Radio Alarm Clock in my parents room
-A DAB/FM radio in the pub kitchen.
-A DAB/FM radio + iPod dock in the pub itself for the music system
-A Car with FM/AM radio.

Not to mention 4 iphones with internet capability. My iPhone has the wunderradio Application. Also, we have numerous computers capable of radio listening through the internet.

Basically what that tells you is there is a lot of radio. I listen to a lot of stations, including Radio Five Live, Radio 1, Heart, Tudno FM, Absolute, and the World Service. You get a lot of different types of programming on them. But how you listen is different. I’ll listen to Absolute and the WS on DAB, because i can only really get them on that. I can listen to Five Live on AM because, even though the quality is terrible, you listen through it, and it becomes less noticeable. Radio 1 is through FM or DAB and Tudno FM through FM because it’s only on FM (or online).

One thing that is fundamental to our future of radio is not how we listen but how we can listen. I don’t mind if i listen on DAB or FM, as long as i can get a decent signal. As a broadcaster, you are aware of what platforms you are broadcasting on. Five Live, for instance, now has music reviews and live sets on sometimes. This is possible, in part, to DAB – it makes it listenable. It’s still fairly terrible on AM, but DAB is good.

But, i want to be able to listen to the radio in the car. DAB in the car – if you can guarantee me a signal, then yes. Internet radio maybe even possible over the 3G networks, if there was full coverage.

I’m drifting. Ok, to answer the question. Yes – too much is talked about what platforms there are. It’s a call for the government, for the CEOs of the big companies, for the BBC, to agree a standardised format – one that will work everywhere, with every station, in quality. Role it out, and make it work. And also, make it work across europe. Make intelligent devices, not poor consumers who need an FM radio for here, a DAB radio for there, a DAB+ radio for europe, and stuck with AM for this and that because nothing else is possible.

Blanket decisions can be bad, but if it saves me money and it’s better (or as good as) what I had, then i don’t mind how i get it.

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3 responses

10 08 2009
Fred Hart

(Quoting from Steve Green’s comments),
“The audio quality on DAB is widely known to be far worse than it is on FM”

But it is listenable! I’d much rather listen on DAB to something like AM, or even the BBC Local Radio online streams, which haven’t yet been upgraded so the audio quality is much worse than DAB.

Also, the reason the quality is worse is because there are so many stations on DAB. DAB is like the Internet: there is only so much space available. If you put too much on, it gets overloaded and the audio quality isn’t that good. I remember reading somewhere that 192kb/s and above is the ideal audio quality on the standard DAB (although the new DAB+ which isn’t yet in use in the UK has better quality).

This can be sorted by removing some of the stations on DAB – why do we need so many? If there were fewer which focused on making quality broadcasts, there’d be enough space to increase the audio quality. The issue with that is: where do all the radio stations go? They sureley wouldn’t want to go off air!

The answer is this: have MORE digital multiplexes, with FEWER stations on each. Cost would be an issue: but thats only because the big manufactures are greedy. There is someone along the line who IS able to lower costs (for equipment etc.), enabling others along the manufacturing lines to lower costs and result in it being cheaper to set up a DAB multiplex.

“all radio stations available on FM, AM and DAB are available via the Internet”
Not strictly true – there are many that still aren’t; community radio/RSLs particularly, which don’t have the equipment or the money to broadcast online (or in some cases, on DAB).

27 07 2009
Steve Green

“It’s a call for the government, for the CEOs of the big companies, for the BBC, to agree a standardised format”

Would you find it acceptable for the Government to say “you must commute to work via public transport”? If not, then why do you think it’s acceptable for the Government, let alone the chief execs of broadcasting organisations, to dictate how radio listeners should listen to the radio??

The BBC and commercial radio want to push everyone onto DAB because, to quote John Myers, the ex-chief exec of the GMG Radio group, they’re “petrified” of Internet radio. And that’s because they think that the more people that listen to radio via the Internet the more listeners they will lose, because of the huge amount of choice available online. In other words, the BBC and commercial radio are practising protectionism, but from what you’ve said you’re actually in favour of the broadcasters practising protectionism.

“one that will work everywhere, with every station, in quality.

The audio quality on DAB is widely known to be far worse than it is on FM, and furthermore it’s impossible for the audio quality to be as good on DAB as it is on FM.

“Role it out, and make it work. And also, make it work across europe.”

The UK Government and broadcasters cannot control what systems other countries decide to use for digital radio. Germany, for instance, has just basically announced that DAB/DAB+ is dead there, and the UK can’t do anything about that.

“Make intelligent devices, not poor consumers who need an FM radio for here, a DAB radio for there, a DAB+ radio for europe, and stuck with AM for this and that because nothing else is possible.”

And how do you receive on-demand content on any of those platforms? The answer is that you can’t, because broadcast systems can’t handle on-demand content. And how are people going to receive radio at high audio quality if the BBC refuses to tell the public that the audio quality is higher on Internet radio than it is on DAB because the BBC is so biased towards DAB?

27 07 2009
Steve Green

” I’ll listen to Absolute and the WS on DAB, because i can only really get them on that.”

You can also receive them via the Internet – all radio stations available on FM, AM and DAB are available via the Internet. Also, the audio quality is far higher via the Internet than it is via DAB.

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