International Radio Festival Celebrates Radio’s Reinvention

Worldwide stations head to Malta for broadcasts and audio conference
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Valletta, MALTA — Stations from around the world broadcast live from Valletta, the European Capital of Culture 2018, as part of the ninth International Radio Festival in Malta.

Stations including Fun Kids and Jazz FM from the United Kingdom, Like FM in Russia, Kiss FM Melbourne, and RAI Radio 3 from Italy joined local favorites 89.7 Bay, Magic Malta and Vibe FM. Presenters included the Sound of India contest winner, R.J. Devaki. The stations broadcast from a purpose-built pop-up studio in Fort St Elmo via DAB+ in Malta, online and via Facebook and YouTube.

The Festival opened with a welcome from Malta’s Minister of Tourism, Konrad Mizzi, who joined the Pride Radio show from the IRF studio. Mizzi said the event was “a celebration of different channels coming together, and I am delighted to be hosting it in Malta.”

The Festival also included a one-day audio conference in the historic surroundings of the Mediterranean Conference Center, formerly the 16th-century “Sacra Infermeria” of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

The conference explored the reinvention of radio, opening with the Chief Executive of Malta’s Broadcasting Authority, Dr. Joanna Spiteri, saying that “radio has continually evolved with the times and keeps advancing with new technology.”

Paul Smith, head of Editorial Standards for BBC Radio, spoke about the evolution of its own audio offering, including the launch of the BBC Sounds app, which brings together live radio, listen-again content and podcasts.

[Related: Radio World in Malta]

Scott Cohen, co-founder of digital distribution company The Orchard prompted a lively debate by declaring “radio is dead, streaming services have disrupted listening habits”, which was firmly challenged by the panel including Xanthe Fuller, head of Community at Mixcloud, who cautioned that with playlists “you can be in an echo chamber of your own taste.”

Composer, arranger and producer, David Lowe, spoke about creating the current BBC News theme, in use since 1999 and instantly recognizable around the world. He explained how he took the familiar Greenwich Time Signal — known as “the pips” — as the basis for the theme, and built the music around them.

Malta is positioning itself as “Blockchain Island,” and with a separate significant conference on the topic taking place nearby, Cliff Fluet, managing director of London-based law firm Lewis Silkin explained how the radio, audio and music industry is well-placed to benefit from this new technology.

[Read: IRF Broadcasts Highlight Station Talent]

The Content Director of the U.K.’s Absolute Radio, Paul Sylvester, marked the 10th anniversary of his station’s launch, noting that “radio has the spirit and ability and the passion to do things differently.” He added “radio is in a great place where we can do things other people can’t. We can have an idea at 6 a.m. and have it on air by 10 a.m. TV can’t do that. Use that power to your advantage.” 

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