“Be open, be bold, and be proud.” That was Annika Nyberg Frankenhaueser’s message to the 700 delegates, from across the radio industry, who gathered in Barcelona for the third annual edition of Radiodays Europe.
The European Broadcasting Union’s Media Director told representatives of commercial and public radio stations that the sector needed to be more open to new ideas and to be bolder about implementing them. She said the time had come to stop whining and to be proud about radio’s success.
Several speakers focused on the benefits of Internet radio. It was, they said, the Long Tail of digital listening, offering thousands of stations covering a wide range of genres, as well as on-demand services and personalised music channels, such as Spotify.
The major disadvantage of Internet radio compared to broadcast technologies was that the bandwidth required to deliver the streams increased with the number of listeners. This meant that larger audiences resulted in prohibitive distribution costs for radio stations.
Radio would therefore need to rely on a broadcast backbone for at least the next 10 to 15 years. The BBC Director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie, warned that this should not become a recipe for inaction and paralysis – radio would lose younger listeners if it became an analogue island in a digital world.
“Either you can choose to digitalise radio, and be part of developing the medium, or you can manage its decline,” he said. “The choice is yours, it’s as simple as that.”
Technologies based on the DAB family offered a number of advantages over other digital terrestrial standards. These included spectrum efficiency, multimedia services, mobility and the wide availability of receivers.
Mr. Davie stressed the need for co-operation built on common ideals. No public service broadcaster could go it alone because change required sharing a common vision with commercial rivals. In the future, he said, competition should be about content and not technology.
“Digital Darwinism” – the idea that media needed to adapt in order to survive -was also the theme of sessions on the importance of social media. “Radio people have always talked to their audiences, that’s why radio is much better at using social media than TV,” said Claire Wardle, who works with the BBC College of Journalism and Storyful.
In the same session, Brett Spencer emphasised the importance of media executives leading by doing. Mark Scott of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was a good example of a senior executive who tweets and follows all his staff.
Elsewhere, the conference looked at questions relating to freedom of speech, government control and the role of journalism as a fundamental public service. One session concentrated on the Klub Radio case from Hungary, and showed interesting research on media laws both in Hungary and in Europe generally.
Klub Radio, which was regarded as the main anti-government station, lost its licence to broadcast. Although an appeals court has since overturned the decision, the issue remains open.
Other sessions focused on the importance of cars for radio. Petra Marsteller of Hit Radio Antenne said that more than 80 per cent of Germans listened to in-car radio, while Martin Weiser of VW discussed the crucial contribution that radio made to road safety.
Radioday’s Europe was above all a networking opportunity for senior managers and programme-makers from public service and commercial stations, as well as manufacturers and the automotive industry. Its value to the industry was underlined by the fact that the conference was sold out three weeks before it opened.
Next year’s Radiodays Europe will take place in Berlin.