AM/FM/DAB+ are endangered radio species says John Patkin

You probably won’t find a 3.5 mm audio socket in the next iPhone as Apple wants to slim down its revolutionary communicator.

It’s another nail in the coffin for FM and DAB proponents that want smartphone manufacturers to ‘activate’ the radio tuning chip because delivery relies on headphone wires for aerials. There’ll be some kind of connection for wired headphones, but it’ll probably be proprietary and involve an adaptor for the 3.5 mm jack. The cost, convenience and privacy of wireless Bluetooth headphones is now and the future.

Bluetooth devices can seamlessly switch from one device to another without messy wires so you can transition from your car to your home to your workplace. There’s nothing worse than spending a few hundred dollars on wired headphones that get wrenched by doors, treadmills, and kids. Wireless headphones replicate a couple of radio’s unique selling points – portability and intimacy.

With 5G on the way, bricks and mortar radio is about to expire and the ongoing investment in DAB/DAB+ is an attempt by industry bodies to exercise control on an expiring form of audio delivery. AM/FM/DAB/DAB+ will expire with their listeners apart from isolated audiences such as the vision impaired and rural communities. As stated in a previous article in 2013[1] the future of radio is the Internet.

DAB supporters proponents meeting in 2016 ABU Digital Broadcasting Symposium 2016 in Malaysia cited Hong Kong as one of the areas of progress[1]. Veteran Hong Kong broadcaster Albert Cheng , a DAB pioneer, lamented the state of the spectrum last November when Phoenix U radio surrendered its licenses.

Phoenix U reportedly “found no prospect of making its business model commercially viable.” The station launched only two of its three channels. The station founded by Cheng, DBC, went bust before being taken over by new owners. Conspicuously missing from the list of DAB successes was Singapore which dropped the spectrum in favor of Smartphones in 2011.

Licensed radio stations in large markets are juggernauts with huge operation costs due to regulatory commitments and competition, but they remain a mass medium that lack the flexibility to respond to individual needs. How do you share something on the radio with your friends and how can stations provide a truly reliable measure of listeners and their activities? There’s no instant text, voice and video messaging. There are no real time figures, just semi-generalisable data from a fixed time period that is contaminated by a concentration of effort through listener enticements and noise.

Businesses using the Internet have more control over how they advertise. They can get audience data anytime, anywhere and can subsequently alter ads and schedules to respond rapidly to changes.

One caveat working for Australian radio station owners is the cost of bandwidth and its inconsistency. In Hong Kong, an unlimited 4G plan with thousands of minutes of phone calls costs around US$32 per month. It covers the underground railway and many other areas traditional radio broadcasters cannot reach and it doesn’t drop out, fizz or crackle like a radio in the concrete jungle or near machinery. Such a plan and coverage would seem impossible in some Australia cities, so that’s where radio has a short-term advantage.



John Patkin is a regular contributor to Asia Radio Today and radioinfo. He is a Hong Kong-based Australian media researcher.




Tags: |