feature: digital radio

A re-tune for radio


he choice available and competition for our ears from an audio content

perspective has never been greater. Today’s audio listener is now faced with an almost infinite choice of audio content and the traditional radio sector is facing competition from new entrants into the broadcast and streaming content arena like never before. Radio services have been a core part of our lives for over 100 years; 49 million listeners tune into UK radio stations every week, 89% of the adult population. That’s a billion hours of radio listening every week. UK radio broadcasters are understandably

concerned over how they maintain a relevance and an audience in the coming years. The BBC need to maintain a connection and relevance to UK audiences to continue to justify an annual licence fee. Commercial stations need to protect their advertising and sponsorship revenues to fund the stations and content that they deliver. The industry is now coming together to debate the future of UK radio; how to define and execute a plan that safeguards radio services into the 2020s and beyond. Industry has invested heavily in rolling

out DAB across the breadth of the UK. Whilst coverage is not quite at the level of FM, it is close, having reached over 97% of UK homes and close to 80% of the UK road network.

September 2019 49 million listeners

tune into UK radio stations every week, 89% of the adult population

massive additional choice and growing consumption you’d probably think that it is inevitable that the days of analogue broadcasting days are numbered. Surely broadcasters would wish to consolidate delivery via a single technology platform, keeping it simple for listeners and saving costs due to dual/ simulcast transmission of stations that are currently broadcast via both the analogue and digital platforms (BBC National stations for example). | 25

In our feature-length look at digital radio this month, Paul Hide, Director of Marketing and Membership at techUK, casts an eye (and maybe an ear) over the latest developments in this growth sector, and argues that the radio industry has now reached a crossroads where the important decisions about radio’s future in the UK need to be taken.

There are over 450 stations available via DAB and DAB+ services, or which 50 are national. The roll-out of small-scale DAB is likely to add another 1000 ultra-local stations. DAB has allowed many regional services

to achieve a national footprint as well as a broad range of more specialist stations serving esoteric tastes, closely targeted audience groups and local communities. The majority of radio listening has been consumed via digital sources for over 12 months now and the RAJAR quarterly listening data shows a consistent upward trend in terms of share of radio via digital and the total hours of digitally delivered content consumed. The latest quarterly data shows that 56% of all UK listening is via a digital source and the number of hours of digital listening are growing by more than 10% year on year. So, with good coverage achieved,

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