The debate about the future of DAB+ continues.
2NUR Newcastle General Manager Wayne Stamm joins the debate.
As the argument on how radio is going to be consumed continues, I feel there are a couple of things that probably should be considered.
It is my understanding that the triggers for considering analog radio closure in Australia will be based on digital listening, in all forms, exceeding 50% in each broadcast area and coverage by DAB+ exceeding 95%. We are a long long long way short of that and I wouldn’t think that could happen for over a decade unless all governments get behind funding for DAB+ conversion right across the country, and I’m not sure that a decade will be enough time for coverage to get to remote areas.
The CBAA and CRA must lobby as a single group and not as two fractured bodies. Together they represent a medium that gets to 90% of the population and together they would be a very powerful lobby group.
The recent drop in funding Community Stations for DAB+ is nothing short of incredibly short sighted by the government and could put the expansion of DAB+ across regional Australia in serious doubt.
One main argument for keeping radio in AM/FM/DAB+ readily available to listeners should surely be emergency broadcasting during fires, floods, cyclones etc. If the power is down and mobile towers fail you can try streaming and sms to your hearts content but you aren’t likely to get anywhere. Very few of us have a portable battery operated radio anymore and radio is still the first place most people go when the power goes down. AM and FM are in a class of their own in emergencies with just one transmitter required to reach an audience and almost all radio stations have emergency plans in place to make sure they can continue to broadcast 24 hours a day, even if it means heading to the transmitter site with a portable studio to keep going.
Whether we like it or not our listeners are streaming more and more because it is portable on their Smartphone. Wireless coverage is improving, data packages are getting bigger for mobile devices and the move to unlimited data on your smartphone probably isn’t all that far away. Batteries are also getting better and most of us are able to recharge daily anyway so “using less battery power” is becoming a redundant argument. Sure, there would be a problem if all of our listeners move to streaming at once but that isn’t likely.
In the USA a number of Telcos are activating the FM chip in Android phones with AT&T due to join them this year.
This is a really big deal with the pressure now moving onto the rest. Apple is still to be convinced that their phones should be activated with FM (or DAB+) and probably won’t unless they get enough pressure from consumers …and that brings me back to the CRA and CBAA working together with a concerted campaign in this country. Sadly that may never happen and radio delivery could flounder as a result.
The technology for DAB+ is significantly better than AM and FM, but if it isn’t in your Smartphone will anyone end up listening? Bluetooth headphones for the Smartphone could kill off all of them and then where will radio be? Happily most of us still listen in our cars, but surely it would be better to be everywhere or as an industry are we betting that car and home is enough…I hope not, but I don’t see another plan yet.
BTW, in some new apartment buildings FM reception is so poor that streaming radio has become the norm, especially in regional Australia where DBA+ isn’t available. Digital TV aerial outlets don’t work very well as an FM aerial. If you are streaming at home, chances are you are also streaming on your phone.
See previous articles.
The LG Stylus is the first DAB+ enabled smartphone.
The CBAA Digital Radio transmission funding campaign currently has over 20,000 signatures.