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5 things we have learnt about radio

5 things we have learnt about radio | Radio Futures |

More than 100 delegates have attended two key Eurovision meetings about the future of radio. Multimedia Meets Radio took place in Turin, in September, and was followed by the Digital Radio Conference in October.


The former is a showcase for excellence in interactive and multimedia content, while the latter event focuses much more on the big strategic questions about the future of the medium.


Here are five core lessons gleaned from both conferences.



1. Digital Radio has passed the tipping point


The BBC’s outgoing Director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie, told the Digital Radio Conference that, “Now is the time to focus on the 'certainty' of a hybrid digital future for radio, because the European digital radio project has passed the tipping point.”


There is a lot of positive news from individual markets, including the Danish parliament’s recent decision to close the FM band by the end of 2019, if by that time half of all radio listening has migrated to digital platforms. What is new is that for the first time the industry is communicating a common vision of radio’s future.


In Brussels, Tim Davie and the Director-General of Deutschlandradio, Willi Steul, aligned their organizations behind an initiative to accelerate the production of multi-standard radio chips. The Euro-Chip will benefit broadcasters, manufacturers and above all, consumers across Europe.


When installed into mobile phones the Euro-Chip ensures that consumers, who are often struggling under the cost of expensive online plans, could receive zero-cost radio broadcast services anywhere.


Consumers also benefit by purchasing future-proofed receivers that will work wherever they are in Europe. Manufacturers will achieve economies of scale.



2. New formats are being created for new platforms


Content producers are placing a greater emphasis on the specific needs of different platforms. Gone are the days when POPE stood for Produce Once and Publish Everywhere.


A good example comes from Swedish Radio’s trailblazing partnership with Spotify. The music streaming service is very popular with youth listeners, many of whom are no longer tuning into traditional radio.


Swedish Radio is trying to recapture that by making comedy and other speech content available on Spotify. Since most songs last about 4 minutes, they concluded that this would be the ideal length of the comedy clips.


Initial feedback has been very encouraging.


Another good example comes from Bulgaria. Binar is an online station that targets young Bulgarians with personalised music channels and six hours of live video.



3. Binaural will soon deliver a personalized 5.1 experience.


Radio is embracing multimedia content, but it remains a medium of sound. Indeed, new technologies are offering broadcasters fresh opportunities for developing audio services.


Work underway at the EBU and elsewhere on binaural listening. Radio France presented their project in Turin.


Binaural audio files mimic the directional frequency filters created by the shape of the human ear to offer an immersive, surround-sound effect using only stereo's two audio channels.The effect is like having an orchestra inside your head, but there are are still a number of hurdles to overcome before broadcasters are able to offer it to mass audiences.


The current technological limitations mean that since we all have different shape heads and ears, each individual listener requires bespoke headphones.


When the service is fully developed audiences will have access to a wealth of content as broadcasters like Radio France host large archive of 5.1 audio files, which are seldom used. The aim of their binaural project is to convert these recordings for the benefit of music lovers.



4. We are not re-inventing radio, just future-proofing it


One of radio’s traditional strengths is mobility - you can pretty much listen to it wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Radio even had a back channel before the Internet popularized the term and phone-in programmes are still one of the most genuinely interactive formats.


What speakers showed us in Turin and Brussels is radio’s digital hybrid future is not about re-inventing radio, but building on those traditional strengths. Multimedia content is “glanceable” – it complements the audio – and digital radio solves problems like multipath distortion, which makes it better for cars than FM.


RTS En Ligne Directe uses social media and a neat smartphone app to make phone-in shows even more interactive. DIY.FM from Switzerland allows listeners to create their own personalized radio channel.



5. Programmes about social issues can be popular with youth audiences.


One of the highlights of the conference in Turin was a presentation from Armenia about Lyunse, a current affairs programme aimed at young adults. The BBC’s Brett Spencer tweeted, “This presentation about radio in Armenia is the most fascinating thing I have seen across the two days.”


Lyunse combines audio and video content with 'happenings' to engage with young people on social and environmental issues. It is not only innovative, but also it takes risks as much of the reporting is about environmental and other activism.


Gohar Adamyan, one of the journalists responsible for Lyunse, is now working with the EBU to create a European portal for public service, multimedia content that targets youth audiences.

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UK government to announce switchover decision in 2013

At the Drive 2 Digital conference held by Digital Radio UK at the BBC's new broadcasting house, Broadcast Minister Ed Vaizey announced the countdown to radio switchover now had inevitable momentum and that government would announce a decision on radio switchover in 2013.

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What song is Multimedia Meets Radio?

By radiomike

26 September 2012



On my way to Turin recently, for Eurovision Media’s flagship Multimedia Meets Radio event, I noticed a glossy magazine that invited readers to find out, "Which Justin Bieber song are you?" I resisted the temptation to take the test as I am not very familiar with Mr. Bieber’s work, but it did inspire me to try to think of a song that might sum up the conference.


This year it took place in Turin at the kind invitation of the Prix Italia, a week-long celebration of the very best content on radio, television and online. You might have thought that the sheer energy and festival atmosphere of the Prix Italia might have induced me to pick something like Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’.


I am not that sophisticated. Instead, I plumped for a more recent song called ‘Stereo Hearts’.

My choice had nothing to do the fact that the performers, Gym Class Heroes, like Eurovision, hail from Geneva – albeit Geneva, New York, in the case of the American band. The reason is the song’s refrain - its ‘hook’:


"Make me your radio
And turn me up when you feel low."


It may not be high art, but it encapsulates everything that is special about radio: I cannot imagine somebody singing, "Make me your television". The magic of radio is that it somehow manages to create the illusion that it is speaking to each individual listener.


Radio is supremely mobile and can accompany its audience wherever they are and whatever they are doing, but this intimacy with its audience is the medium’s unique selling proposition. It is a strength that needs to be preserved as we develop tomorrow’s radio.


At the heart of Multimedia Meets Radio is the idea that although the medium’s future is multiplatform, hybrid and digital, we must make sure that it will always be recognizable as radio.


The challenge is to preserve radio’s strengths while continuing to move with the times. Eurovision Media Director, Annika Nyberg, expressed this idea very succinctly in her keynote speech in Turin.


"Radio does not exist on an island," she said. "We are in a multimedia age where radio, television and the Internet share the same platforms and more importantly, the same users."


Some of those users, especially teenagers and young adults, have been consuming less television and radio, in favour of platforms like YouTube and Spotify. Keeping radio relevant is also about winning over those listeners.


Tomas Granryd told the conference how Swedish Radio had turned Spotify from a perceived threat into an exciting opportunity for doing just that.


With him was Spotify’s Sung-Kyu Choi, who confirmed that they had welcomed Swedish Radio’s idea to share comedy clips and other short formats via the streaming platform. He was at pains to stress that a radio partnership with Spotify was no different from a television station working with Facebook or YouTube.


The Apple iTunes podcasting workshop and the SoundCloud session was also about partnerships to help broadcasters reach out to new audiences. Achieving relevance through innovation was the theme of excellent presentations from the BBC, BNR, Radio France, RAI, RTS and Public Radio of Armenia, as well as Fun Kids, Talk About Local, TPC AG and MX3.CH.


All the presentations are available to conference delegates and EBU Members, while we hope that video from the event will be ready shortly. There was a lot of social media activity around the conference and we thought long and hard about using Storify’s brilliant tools to report the conference through the prism of Twitter.


In the end, though, we opted for the very clever but less well-known application, which allows users to create a more permanent and visually attractive record:

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