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Bierhorst: Communication Is Key for Future of Digital Radio

The WorldDAB president kicked off an industry event in Prague on June 13

DAB radio broadcasters need to better communicate what they have to offer to in-car listeners, and collaborate more effectively with each other to make the medium grow. This was the message delivered by WorldDAB President Jacqueline Bierhorst as she opened the WorldDAB Automotive 2024 on June 13, 2024.

The one-day conference was held in Prague, Czech Republic, in front of an in-person audience and streamed online. WorldDAB is the international association spearheading the adoption of the DAB digital radio transmission standard globally.

“Last time I was here was for Radio Days Europe 2023, when we were celebrating 100 years of Czech Radio,” Bierhorst told her audience. “This anniversary is a great example of what the UK media consultant and DAB operator Matt Deegan called ‘radio’s relentlessness.’ But we can’t be complacent. We can’t rest on our success. The dashboard is critical to our future.”

Jacqueline Bierhorst giving her opening remarks.

Having said this, the WorldDAB president shared some good news: “We know that at least 96% of new cars sold across Europe now come with DAB+ as standard,” said Bierhorst. “It is likely to be very close to 100% but there are a small number of makes and models that we don’t hold data for. So there is now an installed base of cars with DAB+.”

She then noted that “we know that drivers love radio. This is a quote from last year’s Dashboard Dialogue research, conducted for us by Edison Research: ‘If the car didn’t have radio, I wouldn’t buy the car.'”

Based on this research, Bierhorst was able to shared the following three points:

  • Radio is the most listened to audio platform in the car,
  • Drivers say radio is an integral part of the in-car experience,
  • And car buyers expect broadcast radio to be standard in their next new car.

Of course, just because car drivers feel this way today doesn’t mean that they will tomorrow. After all, as the UK’s Guardian newspaper has reported, “Users of self-driving cars will be able to watch films on the motorway under planned changes to the Highway Code, although it will remain illegal to use mobile phones. The update, proposed by the Department for Transport (DfT), will allow those in the driver’s seat to use a car’s built-in screens to watch movies and TV programs.” 

If radio is to hold its own against streaming media — including movies! — in the car, the industry must make tuning in more worthwhile for motorists.

To this end, Bierhorst said, “Many of you know of our ‘5Cs’ that are vital for driving the growth of DAB+ in new and developing markets around the world. I’d like to highlight one this morning: Communication. The communication of the benefits of DAB+ to drivers, and to all listeners, is critical for the growth of DAB+. I know many countries are doing great marketing campaigns, and I can only urge you to keep up that work.

In her speech, she referenced one example of DAB+ programming that emphasizes the flexibility of the service.

“In the UK, last week Capital launched a pop-up station dedicated to Taylor Swift. It’s called Capital (Taylor’s Version), to celebrate The Eras Tour coming to the UK. It’s the first time in the UK that a national DAB+ radio station has been dedicated to a single artist. This just isn’t something you can do on a crowded FM band.”

Bierhorst closed out her comments saying, “We all have to pull together to ensure that DAB+ remains at the heart of the dashboard in the best quality possible. If we do this, then the radio that listeners love so much — both here in Czechia, and around the globe – will be here for another 100 years!”

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