by Aris Erdogdu, Communications Manager, WorldDAB
World Radio Day was marked by the Digital Radio Summit, organised as part of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Digital Radio Week, at the EBU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The one-day summit was packed with interesting sessions covering a wide range of topics related to digital radio – from the recent introduction of new EU legislations imposing digital radio in cars, all the way to the new waves of digital radio in emerging markets across Europe.
Just over a year after having become the first country to complete its digital switchover, Norway was – as expected – still in the limelight, and the first session of the day was led by Marius Lillelien, director of regional radio for Norway and previously head of radio at the Norwegian National Broadcasting Service (NRK) when the national FM band was switched off. Addressing the crowd, Marius touched on some of the challenges and opportunities that came hand in hand with the digital switchover.
For Norway, switching off the FM band in 2017 meant having to spend a lot of time and resources developing new apps, services and features, and using a broad spectrum of platforms to reach each and every audience across the country. While this presented a number of challenges, the ongoing discussions – and overall excitement – around the switchover brought (digital) radio back into the headlines and at the forefront of conversations, thus helping drive a relatively seamless transition from analogue to digital.
According to Marius, the first few months following the switch off of FM were rather smooth, though when it came to the bigger cities such as Oslo and Bergen, listeners were more reluctant to jump on the digital bandwagon, mainly due to the fact that local stations could continue to broadcast on FM. The automotive industry was also presented with a significant challenge in that changing the whole car fleet is a lengthy process requiring significant investment of time and long-term planning. Due to the varying quality of adaptors, and the complexity to source and self-install adaptors, certain listeners also perceived coverage to be rather poor, when in fact the issue was purely related to the reception of the adapters, particularly those which did not include service following.
Now, over a year after the switchover, and after having overcome the few initial and inevitable hurdles that followed the switchover, digital radio is well and truly up and running, with the radio industry in Norway looking as strong as ever. Listening numbers are continuously rising, and have now reached the same numbers as before the switchover. New opportunities have emerged for both broadcasters and listeners, and younger audiences are increasingly receptive to and engaged with digital radio. Perhaps most notably, over a third (35%) of radio listening in Norway is now happening on new radio stations, which didn’t exist before the switchover.
Over to you, Switzerland!