David Fernández, Media Intelligence Service and Dr Christian Vogg, Head of Radio, EBU
To build the case for digital radio, EBU’s Media Intelligence Service and the Radio unit conducted a research identifying key success factors for radio digitisation. This so called ‘Digital Radio Toolkit’ offers guidelines on how to handle the launch of digital terrestrial radio, building on the experiences and good practices in the countries leading this process in Europe: Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In total 30 different key success factors were identified and exemplified with a specific national case, covering eight areas: institutional structure, policy and regulation, content and offer, technology, switchover process, public communications, consumer electronics and the car industry.
Summarising, there are 5 “C”s digital radio needs if it is to succeed:
Coverage: At the end of the transition process from FM to DAB+, digital radio coverage must be at least the same as analogue radio. Including major roads in the coverage plan involves car industry and commuters. Availability of the coverage must be well coordinated with public communications to avoid frustrating experiences for early adopters.
Content: The content proposition needs to be strong, with clear added value when comparing the digital and analogue portfolio of services. This can be achieved mainly with new radio channels and programmes. One good strategy to drive listenership to digital platform is to move successful analogue programs to digital-only stations. Also visuals, multimedia, metadata, sound quality or interactive features add value.
Costs: Simulcast transmission adds costs for broadcasters, as well as the production of new content. On the long run, digital transmission is cheaper than analogue but only after FM has been switched off. For new stations, reducing the average cost of producing programmes is necessary. This can be achieved by producing the same output for a larger distribution, for example by importing content from other platforms, or by sharing the costs of production among a larger number of stations, for example by airing the same radio show but with different music on different stations.
Collaboration: Compete on content but cooperate in technology is the shared vision between public and private radios. Led by broadcasters, all the stakeholders must work together. This includes network operators, regulators, governments, industry bodies, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of devices and the car industry. The aim is to create win-win situations and reduce uncertainties during the transition period.
Communication: Public communication is essential to make citizens aware of digital radio and its associated services. It is also a central tool in involving the related industries. The message must be consistent to avoid confusion in the market, the reason why several countries have set up a joint industry body to deal with public communications and marketing. The message must focus on the added value of digital radio. Finally, keep it simple: promote ‘digital radio’ and not ‘DAB’ or ‘DAB+’, since it is easier to understand and the term “digital” has positive connotations.
This 5 Cs formula leads to a sixth: commitment from all stakeholders. This commitment clearly shows the goals and ambitions of the industry and sends the strongest possible signal, helping to generate momentum among listeners. For them, digital radio represents an expanded offer of services, not just limited to traditional programming but as a driver of other audio innovations in broadcasting, on IP platforms and beyond.
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