The future of radio is digital. This was the message of the 20th EBU Radio Assembly recently held in Amsterdam. Marjan Hammersma, Director General, Dutch Ministry of Culture and Education, stressed the importance of free-to-air broadcast in a digitised media world, and Jan Westerhof, Director of Radio at NPO, explained the current push for DAB+ in the Netherlands while showing the latest promotional video of the newly launched campaign in which public service and commercial radio broadcasters are working together to promote the benefits of listening to digital radio to the public. Examples from Norway, Germany, Poland and the UK demonstrated how far advanced the implementation in the respective markets already is. The main “battlefield”, the car industry, was also discussed, and it was clear that the retailers are driving this market, as pointed out by Thomas Kusche, President of TISA.
With frontrunner Norway heading firmly to its desired switchover in 2017, and the CEO of the Association of the Automotive Industry in Germany explicitly promoting digital radio recently at an automotive workshop in Zurich, the EBU has now decided to bundle European-wide activities even more closely and to set up a comprehensive Digital Radio Project, targeting not only the broadcasting industry but the overall number of stakeholders. The aim is to bring all the loose ends of the digital radio business into a more coherent structure and give it a single perspective. One part of this will be the “digital radio toolkit”, which is a manual on how to implement successful digital terrestrial radio, prepared by the EBU’s Media Intelligence Service (MIS). Towards this end, stakeholders in selected countries and industries, including governments and regulators, are being interviewed. The result will be a checklist providing in-depth analysis on which measures work and which do not.
Euro-Chip becomes Smart Radio
Driven by the market demand for listening ‘on-the-move’, the objective of the Smart Radio Initiative (formally known as Euro Chip) is to promote free-to-air listening in all radio sets, especially mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Currently, mobile listeners access radio through IP streaming which incurs high data costs as soon as consumers are outside of a Wi-Fi network. ‘Smart Radio’ will provide listeners with the ability to access live broadcast services everywhere at no additional cost, regardless of delivery technologies and detailed technical solutions in different devices. In turn, this will reduce pressure on mobile broadband networks while making full use of spectrum allocations for digital and analogue radio.
The name change from Euro-Chip was necessary because of the high interest in Asia and America in the concept of the campaign, promoting analogue and digital broadcast chips being implemented both at the same time in radio devices in order to facilitate the transition from FM to DAB/DAB+, and because “Euro” seemed to imply a European compatibility, the signatories of the initiative (1) decided to call it “Smart Radio”. Made up of public and commercial broadcasters, the content of the initiative and of the accompanying Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) remain the same, but the focus is now more on mobile devices since the slogan says: Smart Radio in Smartphones! The word “smart” indicates, as in Smart TV, the hybrid approach connecting broadcast and broadband. More broadcasters have now asked to join the initiative and to sign the MoU.
In conclusion, Smart Radio is a win-win situation for every player in the radio business: for broadcasters, mobile network operators, governments, advertising industry and of course for consumers.
(1) So far 21 public and commercial broadcasters have signed the MoU, including British Broadcasting Corporation, Klassik Radio GmbH& Co. KG, Radiotelevisione Italiana S.p.A. and Norsk Rikskringkasting AS.