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US Broadcasters Speak at EBU Digital Radio Summit

Sam Matheny and Joe D'Angelo addressed the future of radio technology at event in Switzerland

GENEVA — More than 120 delegates attended the recent Digital Radio Summit — part of the annual EBU Digital Radio Week — to hear from EBU members and others about the present and the future in radio technology and innovation, according to tech.EBU.

For those readers in the states that perhaps wonder just why we cover European radio so much, it’s because broadcasters over there are in many ways ahead of us and we can learn something about what will happen in North America by seeing what happens there.

A primary theme running through the summit this year was “user experience,” including automotive and voice control. Questions that kept coming up included: How can radio compete with the user experience offered by other audio services? What can radio do to go even further? And how can broadcasters actually drive change, rather than be swept away by it?

Are we asking these same questions enough in the US? The good news is that US broadcasters were in attendance and spoke to the assembly. Sam Matheny, CTO of NAB, said that broadcasters were currently fragmented, but trying to work with global companies — and that coming together and using scale to leverage change could be the winning tactic. He also pointed out that something as simple as using the same words on a global scale would help to drive this change. 

Matheny reminded attendees that in times of crisis, people continued to turn to radio as their primary source of information, as witnessed during tragic events such as Hurricane Harvey in the US or the Tōhoku earthquake in Japan. It was this reliability of broadcast over mobile networks that drove the NAB push to get broadcast receivers in mobile phones, said Matheny, according to the same article.

Radio remains of vital importance in cars and accounts for a huge proportion of listening hours through the world. The experience of radio in cars is evolving, though. 

Joe D’Angelo of Xperi called these changes “table stakes” that radio must offer to keep its prominence in the dashboard. Presentations from Xperi and Audi illustrated that graphical branding and information about what is on-air enriches the radio user experience, and Audi issued a call to action for broadcasters to provide logos, content and metadata to feed their increasingly sophisticated and capable in-car media surfaces.