Embrace innovations in audio: Joan Warner at #DBS2020 | radioinfo

Embrace innovations in audio: Joan Warner at #DBS2020

Wednesday 04 March, 2020

At this week’s ABU Digital Broadcasting Summit in Malaysia, Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner shared with Asian broadcasters the ongoing work being done in Australia to expand the offerings of digital radio and reach audiences on many devices, especially smart speakers.


“In 2019 we celebrated 10 years since the launch of DAB+. 49% of Australian households now have access to a DAB+ digital radio device at home ,work or in a vehicle,” said Warner.

2.5 million DAB+ devices have been sold to date and there are nearly 3 million new vehicles sold with factory fitted digital radios. Digital radio has rolled out beyond the original five capital cities and now includes most of Australia’s main cities. The next city planned to introduce DAB+ broadcasts is the Gold Coast.

The 2020 Roadmap

“While not overlooking the success of traditional radio, if we are to remain competitive within the market and maintain our position as leaders… we must welcome the new opportunities… and embrace innovations in audio,” Warner told delegates, outlining advances in podcasting, measurement, artificial intelligence and new techology, including smart speakers.

2 million people listen to podcasts each day in Australia. Podcasts (7.3%) have overtaken owned music (7%) for the first time when it comes to time-spent-listening. Last year podcast listening was 3.8%.

She also outlined the introduction of the podcast ranker was introduced at the request of advertisers, who wanted a standardised way to compare the audiences for various podcasts.

Smart speakers

2.7 million people in Australia (13% of population) own a smart speaker and the number is increasing rapidly. CRA is working with platforms such as Amazon and Google to make radio easy to discover and access via voice control and digital assistants.

The aim is for people to be easily able to access radio and podcasts on smart speakers and mobile phones. A joint marketing campaign with smart speaker manufacturers is planned for later this year.

The industry body has worked hard with smart speaker companies to ensure that raid stations can be found on request no matter what variation of the station name people use. Some listeners may request ‘triple j’ while others may say ‘jay jay jay,’ or some may ask for ‘3AW’  while others request ‘3AW 693.’ The voice controlled AI mechanism in smart speakers must be able to recognise all the variations of the name and deliver the correct station to the listener.

“The work we did with Amazon meant that for 328 stations we have 3645 ways to ask Alexia to find those radio stations, and they all work. We are constantly working with amazon to keep all those up to date.

“We are also working with Google aiming for 98% accuracy for stations requested on google home and google nest speakers.”

She also spoke about the RadioMATRIX ad booking platform, explaining that the system streamlines the booking process and in the future will give buyers the ability to understand who is listening to their ads and monitor their bookings.


In the same session, Steve Ahern discussed new trends in radio, tv and OTT transmission, telling delegates:

"Southern Cross Austereo decided to sell its transmitters to BAI Communications (formerly known as Broadcast Australia) to get better value for the company. SCA's CEO believes 'transmission is now a level playing field, there was no competitive advantage in owning the transmitters any more.' He would rather spend all the CapEx money on hiring the best talent and producing the best content. He also wanted to stabilise the balance sheet."

Ahern compared the "lumpy" cost cycle of equipment buying, maintenance and replacement with the more evenly distributed costs of hiring or sharing transmission costs.

"With so many new competitors to deal with, but less reliable revenue, it is not so easy to go to governments or your owners to ask for more money when you want to replace your transmitters, so more and more broadcasters are doing what was unthinkable years ago and working with their competitors in the area of transmission."

He gave the example of the ABC and WIN forming a joint venture Media Hub, which delivers playout to terrestrial transmitters and also transcodes content for delivery on other platforms.

Another example is ALEF Technology, a Dubai/Afghanistan company that delivers storage, playout, archiving, compliance monitoring and OTT services from its IP playout centre (slide from presentation below).

Ahern concluded by urging broadcasters to rethink their business models and question whether they can do things more efficiently, in different ways, with new technology in today's more competitive environment.

Find more reports from DBS2020 on our sister site www.AsiaRadioToday.com

Photo credit: Nadzim Zainal, ABU


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5 March 2020 - 1:24pm
As it has been pointed out previously by CRA digital broadcasting is the cheapest way of getting the program from a studio to a large audience.

If all of the audience use smart speakers and landline & mobile phones and there is an emergency these devices will not work meaning no warnings when no one owns a radio.
In the recent fires the tower serving Bateman's Bay/Moruya was burnt. This stopped mobile phones and wireless internet from working. Even without burning the tower the power line to the site is burnt down, Fire controllers will not allow a tanker filled with diesel to drive to the tower site to replenish the generator every day.

Remember also that lots of Australians have Fibre to the Node NBN and if the power fails in that street, when the batteries in the Node cabinet go flat, the smart speaker and the computers will no longer receive warnings. This also applies to mobile phone base stations as well.
Anthony The Koala
6 March 2020 - 10:48am
Mr StJohn made a valuable observation in regards a power failure in an FTTN (fibre to the node) connection where smart speakers may be utilized in an emergency situation.

Here are applications for various connection types such as FTTP, FTTB, FTTC, FTTN, HFC and Sky Muster™ which may apply to broadcasting stations and households.

FTTP (fibre to the premises) - a fibre optic cable is connected to the premises. There is no electrical connection from the fibre optic cable to the premises. Power is required to power up the network terminal device ('NTD'), the interface between the fibre optic cable and the provider's router.

If there is a power blackout, two-way communications is not possible to the fibre optic cable's NTD. However an external battery may allow operation of the NTD and router for a specified number of hours depending on the capacity of the battery. Typically it's 4 hours according to the NBNCo.

Remark not mentioned on the NBNCo site: While the fibre optic cable continues to emit light during a power blackout, there is NOTHING to indicate the source of powering the fibre optic cable transceivers (transmitter/receiver). For example if the power goes out at the transceiver's source - that is where is the power source of the fibre optic cable system?

FTTB (fibre to the building) - even though there is a fibre optic to the building, unlike FTTP, there is no ability to connect a power backup system during a power blackout.

Remark: In such a situation, for radio studios using IP communications from the studio to the tx, the radio station should seek an alternative to FTTB including installing FTTP and/or a microwave link from studio to tx.

FTTC (fibre to the curb) - a fibre optic cable runs in front of the premises. Four premises are connected to a hub located in the pit. Each premises uses a copper cable from the hub to the premises. Power is required to power the hub from the premises.

In a blackout, no two-way communication is possible using FTTC. However a backup system is possible through the use of a battery backup to power the FTTC's NTD and router connected to the NTD.

Remark not mentioned on the NBNCo site: laser light from the fibre optic cable terminates at the hub. The particular hub connection to the premises requires hub. Suppose there is backup power in the premises, like FTTP, there is nothing to indicate in the NBNCo's website the source of power of the fibre optic transceivers (transmitter/receiver).

FTTN (fibre to the node) - a fibre optic cable runs to a node. The node is powered by the mains and should there be a power failure there is a battery backup located in the node. Within the node, there are interfaces between the fibre optic cable and the copper wire for each household. The household's copper cable is interfaced to a NTD and then router.

In a blackout, the household's NTD and provider's router will not operate. No backup battery of the NTD and provider's router is possible at the premises. The only backup is possible at the node.

Remark not mentioned on the NBNCo site: StJohn mentioned that if the node's backup battery fails, then communication via the internet and voip telephone fail.

HFC (hybrid fibre coaxial) - if a blackout occurs, backup power is not possible at the premises at all.

FW (fixed wireless) - during a blackout, no backup power is possible especially if the fixed wireless towers have no backup.

Remark: for households, have a mobile phone as as backup. For radio studios, consider using alternative means of communicating between studio and tx such as a microwave link.

According to the NBNCo, in such a situation, where a "...premises is located within a Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster™ satellite area...", the householder "...will have the option of keeping the existing landline phone service active across the copper network....." Source NBNCo.

Sky Muster™ satellite - power backup is possible. But if the satellite loses power, the household may still have access to the 'landline' (POTS) system. Householders may need to talk to the provider.

I avert readers to the NBNCo's information on power failures to the various methods of NBN connection:

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belfield
6 March 2020 - 10:53am
Here is an further angle to the powering of NBN services. My mother in law is in her 80s and has one of those emergency call systems around her neck for medical emergencies. She was recently 'upgraded' to the NBN. Then her emergency call system told her that the phone lines supplied by the NBN would not be powered during a blackout and that she should convert to a SIM powered mobile system. Thankfully the government has realised the problem and offers subsidies to cover the cost of that... but why is this not talked about when discussing the NBN roll out. It seems that it would be an important thing to be aware of. Thanks to StJohn and AnthonyKoala for discussing it.
Anthony The Koala
6 March 2020 - 3:39pm
May I also add a further detail about the FTTC (fibre to the curb) powering the NBN's NTD (network terminal device). It may not have been so obvious in my previous remark.

As at 06-03-2020, the NTD's power supply is from the mains. There is no DC transformer adapter to convert the 240VAC mains to the NTD's operating current.

That is you cannot supply the NTD with DC current externally.

Also the NTD does not accommodate spare space for an SLA 12V battery like the FTTP's NTD.

References to show that there is no space to accommodate an emergency battery for the NTD.

And page 3 of

There's hope - you can connect a power supply to the FTTC's NTD:
While it appears that you cannot provide a backup, one can use an inverter/charger/ups with a 12V backing battery. The 12V battery connected to the UPS can last even longer than the 'advertised' running time of 4 hours.

Distinction between NTD and router - applied to the FTTC:
The NTD refers to the connection box between the NBN's line and the provider's router. The provider's router refers to router supplied by one's preferred retailer of telephonic and internet services. This router is connected to the NTD and provides connections to a phone (with tone dialling NOT rotary dialling) and internet (data). Follow the instructions of one's provider's router,

This applies to households and radio broadcasters who use the internet for transmitting and receiving broadcast audio.

Thank you,
Anthony of Belfield
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