GENEVA — Undoubtedly, the FM switch off which took place in Norway in 2017 established an industry milestone.
This was the first time ever FM radio was (legally) kicked out of the broadcast scenario (though some local broadcasters are allowed to remain on FM until 2022). It also marks a line that clearly divides the radio broadcasting era into before and after.
From that point forward and up until a few years ago, most broadcast conferences held in Europe had reserved one or more slots for speakers detailing the Norwegian switch off process, its findings and lessons learned. These sessions also discussed results in terms of radio’s growth, audience engagement, receiver sales and what happened the “day after,” etc.
On Feb. 12, the European Broadcasting Union’s Digital Radio Summit, an established annual late-winter meeting in Geneva brought together radio industry executives and stakeholders from around the world to discuss next steps and strategies.
This time however, speakers didn’t focus on the results of the FM switch off for the radio industry and its ability to adapt. Nor did they discuss digital terrestrial coverage advancements in given countries and respective FM shut down dates. The conversation instead veered toward more practical deliberations on implementation and tactics, knitting Norway’s digital transition into the radio’s longer-term history.
“Radio is alive and growing. When you innovate, when you change the way you provide content, people follow you.”
Speakers still talked about terrestrial broadcasting but in the form of “how-to” discussions.
One example was the topic of using helicopters to install masts and antennas rather than cranes because it’s cheaper. Another was about using open source software bricks to set up audio encoders, multiplexers, modulators as well as the rest of the digital broadcasting chain. It was no longer about “if and when.”
A STEP FORWARD
The takeaway from the Digital Radio Symposium 2020 is that terrestrial broadcasting, analog or digital, is still a part of the game, but it’s no longer a critical item.
DRS 2020 thus took a giant step forward by targeting radio’s future in terms of how to manage content production, distribution and delivery in order to ensure the best results in the ever-changing market scenario. How to establish fluid distribution channels and reach an audience that today is charmed by new, often glittering, listening opportunities.
Notwithstanding the constantly changing backdrop, “Radio is live and growing” said Antonio Arcidiacono, EBU’s director of technology and innovation, in his keynote speech. “Radio has got resilience, it can be an example for other media.”
He pointed out how radio is growing in new markets, like podcasts, where it is growing also in young audiences’ preferences. “When you innovate, when you change the way you provide content, people follow you,” he concluded.