Bernie O’Neill, Project Director, WorldDAB
In the opening industry keynote at ABU DBS, Joan Warner of WorldDAB and Commercial Radio Australia warned broadcasters not to ‘languish in an analogue backwater’, calling on them to make the most of radio’s strengths by moving to digital.
With more competition from smart speakers and streaming services, radio needs to continue to innovate, utilising its strength and expertise in creating engaging and valuable audio content in the digital space.
Delivering this innovation through analogue isn’t easy as there’s no space for new services. Moving to digital allows broadcasters to offer new services and it allows regulators to introduce an accessible digital platform while offering protection from interference for broadcasters licensed to use the digital spectrum.
With a high share of listening taking place in cars, it’s important to consider a digital standard that can support radio’s place in the dashboard. 47% of new cars in Australia now support DAB+, and in advanced European markets nearly all new cars are sold with DAB+ as standard.
With DAB+ going from strength to strength in Europe and the Middle East, regulators in the Asia Pacific region can learn from these case studies and do it even better. There are clear economies of scale to be had from planning digital radio on a regional basis, and ABU and WorldDAB are working to facilitate these discussions.
Moving to digital represents an unparalleled opportunity – broadcasters can offer up to three times as many services without significant additional cost – something streaming competitors would jump at the chance for.
These new services can attract new audiences and this in turn creates new revenue opportunities. For example, in Sydney there are 17 services on FM and AM, but over 40 on DAB+.
Staying analogue is not a viable long-term option of business plan for broadcasters – but neither is relying only on mobile networks to deliver our content. Access to digital broadcast spectrum is key for radio’s future and, given its success around the world, DAB+ is the platform for radio to use. Moving to digital will help broadcasters capitalise on radio’s unique ability to create brilliant audio content and expand that offer across multiple platforms and audiences. The biggest risk for our industry is not making this move.