A highly competitive media landscape means radio, like all other media, must fight hard to keep increasing its audience and attract advertising dollars. The Australian commercial radio industry has loyal listeners and a solid revenue base. The industry introduced DAB+ digital radio to secure its future and ensure it continued to innovate. DAB+ allows the industry to continue to compete when presented with the challenge of competition.
Reliance purely on analogue only limits radio’s ability to innovate. online streaming cannot replicate or replace the reach of large broadcast radio to large audiences simultaneously. Radio must be available across all platforms – AM, FM, DAB+, online, in mobiles, on tablets, in cars and any other new device that comes to market.
Australian radio broadcasters recognised they needed to be in the digital broadcast space. DAB+ digital radio is powerful, spectrum efficient and offers broadcasters worldwide the ability to give listeners greater interactivity, more programming, better sound, plus scrolling text and slide show to complement the audio.
In Australia we had the benefit of learning from a number of digital radio rollouts worldwide and the economics of investing in the radio industry’s digital future was clear. The benefits long term outweigh any initial investment outlay.
Benefits for broadcasters include:
– Keeping analogue spectrum
– Shared costs and all of industry work together
– Free spectrum and broadcasters to hold the spectrum licence
– No new entrants until market established (Australia 6 years)
– High powered robust indoor and mobile DAB+ signal
– Ability to generate new content
– Joint marketing to promote DAB+ as an industry to benefit all
Firstly, from the outset it is important for all of the radio industry both public and private broadcasters to work together on policy and regulation. one industry voice is much more powerful than a splintered approach when talking to government and regulators.
When developing industry policy, broadcasters must insist on access to spectrum and transmission powers that allow effective broadcast across the whole market and ask for incentives. One of the incentives for Australian commercial broadcasters was that each existing commercial analogue station was given 128 kilobits free as a basic entitlement. If a radio broadcaster had two stations they were given 256 kilobits. The only restriction placed on it was you had to use it or lose it.
The roll out of DAB+ digital radio provides new, greener transmission infrastructure. Analogue broadcasters own and operate their own infrastructure and transmit on individual frequencies, DAB+ digital radio technology can combine up to 32 radio services in a single ensemble using shared infrastructure, lower power and only one shared frequency.
A single transmit antenna can be used for around 18 DAB+ services instead of generally individual antennas and frequencies for each AM and FM service causing congestion on towers or requiring multiple tower sites.
DAB+ offers drastically reduced infrastructure costs compared to analogue – instead of needing a transmitter per service, a single DAB+ transmitter can be used for a whole ensemble of services saving the same proportion of costs for floor space rental, power, spares and maintenance costs.
DAB+ offers approximately 10 times better energy consumption for 15 the equivalent FM services over a year An incentive offered to broadcasters in
An incentive offered ti broadcasters in Australia to invest in DAB+ was to not allow any new digital licences for a period of six years. This is to protect the investment, while broadcasters are carrying two costs of broadcasting – analogue and digital and allows time to move listeners to digital radio and find new revenue to cover costs. Radio broadcasters were also given the first opportunity to own and operate the multiplexes. In Australia joint venture companies were set up in each state to own and operate the multiplex.
It is also important for broadcasters to understand how new content can drive uptake of digital radio and grow revenue streams. new sponsor driven DAB+ pop up or event stations can create new revenue.
And finally, the shared cost of a carefully planned industry marketing and awareness campaign is essential. This makes sure listeners know about digital radio and what benefits it offers them – fundamental to winning their support and buy-in.
In Australia, the industry has been very pleased with the uptake of DAB+ digital after just three years and without an AM or FM switch off. The investment in digital radio has already proved to be prudent and the full financial benefits will be realised ultimately when analogue radio is no longer simulcast with DAB+.
CEO, Commercial Radio Australia
Chair of the WorldDAB Asia Pacific Committee