Radio with Pictures: Time to Stretch the Boundaries

Radio with Pictures: Time to Stretch the Boundaries

By , Nov 12 in blog with 1 comment

300px DAB Digital Radio Radio with Pictures: Time to Stretch the Boundaries

A Digitial Radio Reciever

Back in October I wrote a post about Digital Radio, and to my mind I could not see digital radio receivers going out in droves given the fact that the price for technology was high and really what are radio stations going to give us that we can’t already get from other digital sources. I wrote that story based on my own opinions of digital radio and it’s relevance to the market today as a former radio station employee of over 27 years, not something that I would nomally cover in this a technology blog.

Well as a follow up to that story I thought you may be interested in this update featured in the Australian newspaper on Monday.

Mark Day, an old radio personality  himself as written an article entitled Radio with pictures: time to stretch the boundaries, about the impact of digital radio on Australian radio listeners.

Here’s the article as written by Mark Day from the Australian:

Radio with pictures: time to stretch the boundaries

AUSTRALIAN audiences have been able to tune into digital radio broadcasts since August, but is anyone doing it? The move to digital has given us many new formats with names like Koffee and Gorilla, but is anyone listening?

We will have to wait until the new year for credible information about how well — or not — audiences have taken to digital radio broadcasting. The radio industry’s peak body, Commercial Radio Australia, announced last week it would survey digital listening, scan Christmas sales of digital receivers, and seek the opinion of listeners about the kind of programs they want.

The results of this survey will be the industry’s first guide to the success or otherwise of its multi-million-dollar investment in new technology. It won’t surprise me if the results show digital uptake is slow — very slow. Anecdotal evidence is that electrical stores are reporting steady sales of DAB-plus receivers, but nothing to get excited about.

In Melbourne, where transmission difficulties continue to pose problems, there are reports that 40 per cent of purchasers have returned their sets because they can’t get an adequate signal.

Eventually, signal problems will be ironed out, but doubts will linger about the consumer appeal of a new technology that improves FM sound only marginally and costs between $150 and $1000 for new equipment.

What the radio industry needs is an exciting, enticing unique selling point for digital radio. I believe there will never be a better time than now to argue for that — in the form of radio with pictures. It’s possible now. DAB-plus technology can do it. But the rules and regulations that cocoon the industry prevent it. I was invited last week to launch a new book on the radio industry, Changing Stations, by Bridget Griffen-Foley, director of the centre for media history at Macquarie University. It’s an extremely well-researched history of radio from its switch-on in 1923 until the advent of digital broadcasting in August.

Reading the book, I was struck by the number of times the radio industry and its regulators have wrestled with the rules of the game, the introduction of new technologies and the reluctance of incumbents to change their comfortable status quo.

Changing Stations tells how the industry lobbied throughout the 1950s and 60s against the introduction of FM. Industry leaders asked: Who needs it? What’s wrong with what we’ve got? And they had a quiet word in the PM’s ear, and nothing happened except that the incumbent owners protected their profits.

Because the established industry refused to innovate with FM, new players were ultimately invited to establish FM stations which switched on in the early 80s — four decades after its introduction in the US.

What could have been a huge money-spinner for a willing, enthusiastic industry became its financial nightmare. None of the old networks made up of AM stations survived the introduction of FM; the new players became the dominant new networks, and continue to be so today.

You would think the industry would have learned from that, but it was not to be. History was about to repeat itself with the advent of digital broadcasting, which began in France and Canada in 1990.

Kim Beazley, as communications minister, predicted in 1992 that digital would be introduced in Australia by 1996. “We won’t be letting this become another FM,” he told an industry conference. But the industry dithered and poured cold water on the new technology, protecting its profits. Richard Alston as communications minister had to threaten in 2002 — you either embrace digital or we’ll invite new players to do so. This “use it or lose it” threat caused the industry, reluctantly and at a snail’s pace, to set up digital transmitters, develop new program formats, and switch on in all capital cities in August. But regional areas still do not have digital frequency allocations, so the expansion of digital signals into the sticks is still years away.

The radio industry has failed to ride the digital wave. Anyone prepared to look over the horizon in the early 90s would have seen the opportunity for the industry to put itself into the box seat to develop a thriving new business — selling music by download.

Radio exposes music to a willing and receptive audience. It takes no great leap of logic to ask why the industry didn’t position itself to become the iTunes stores of today. Sure, there were piracy and copyright issues to be confronted, but if iTunes could work them out, why not radio companies?

That was an opportunity lost. Now, radio has another opportunity. I believe there will never be a better time for the industry to get on the front foot and argue for a better place in the converging world of media.

DAB-plus can broadcast pictures with its sound signals, but the radio industry is prevented by regulation from turning these still pictures of station logos or whatever, into moving pictures.

I fail to see why this should be so. Why can’t the little screens on new digital devices be used for video news grabs? Why shouldn’t music videos accompany music?

In a converging world, boundaries are blurred. Old barriers are worthless. There is no longer, in a world of abundance, a need to put up false barriers to protect players in a field of scarcity. Newspapers are increasingly using video online. Radio stations can do it on their websites, but not on air.

Mobile TV exists over the phone; why not over the broadcasting spectrum? Why not allow radio to add pictures?

Why can’t I use my iPhone as a single mobile source of radio, television, telephony, email, navigation and information?

There’ll never be a better time for radio to lobby for an extension of its boundaries. The world of media is in flux — an ideal time to carve out new opportunities. Old barriers will fall; old rules will be abandoned because they no longer make sense.

In a digital world, media companies have to be across many platforms. Limiting yourself to one will be to take the road to media extinction.

 Radio with Pictures: Time to Stretch the Boundaries


About the author

 Radio with Pictures: Time to Stretch the Boundaries Mike Andrew has been working with the Internet and small business for over 12 years. Mike has been a keynote speaker at conventions and seminars and conducted social media training sessions all over the world. Mike has an extensive media background having worked in electronic media for over 30 years. Mike specialises in social media and Internet marketing strategy, SEO techniques and search engine marketing campaigns. His articles appear on numerous blogs around the web as well as national magazines.

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Comments

  • Daniel Tan says :

    Cross pollination of information over different media sources has certainly taken off especially over the last couple of years. I have seen this in my personal use and consumption just in the last 6 months.
    There was an article recently on SMH or somewhere and I think it cited the inventor of the mobile phone. Words mentioned something like multifunctional devices doing many things with less adequacy than specialist devices doing each task well.
    Is this the case for digital radio? and the digital future? My Architectural thesis I wrote a few years ago touched on the subject of the virtual/ digital reality and how things were starting to blur the edges of virtuality.
    Maybe what doens’t make sense now will make sense in the near future. I think the future also seems to come much quicker than it did in the past. Technology is progressing frighteningly quick. SO quick that it reminds me of the movie “Terminator” or “The Matrix”. Will it really go that way ? or will it be a more harmonious symbiotic relationship ?
    Daniel


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