Laws catches rewind radio Bug at Alexandria

John Laws today launched a digital radio display stall at the Domayne Superstore in Alexandria Sydney, and introduced consumers to a rewind digital radio called The Bug (pictured right).

The world’s first digital radio to allow users to pause, rewind and record live radio is on display as part of a showcase of digital radios at the store.

2UE is broadcasting all day from the Domayne Superstore. Laws’ broadcast drew a large crowd.

At the launch Laws said: “Radio has changed enormously over the 50 years I’ve been broadcasting and digital technology is arguably the biggest change but also the most critical to ensuring that the industry is able to remain innovative over the next 50 years.”

It is the second time the consumer display stall has been set up in Sydney, where digital radio trials are being conducted by Commercial Radio Australia. The first display was at Harvey Norman’s Auburn Computer Superstore.

The Bug, by PURE Digital, looks strikingly different from most of the other radios on display, and includes advanced features which allow listeners to:

* Pause live radio and then restart from where they left off

* Rewind radio by 5-12 minutes and play it again

* Rewind and record a segment and play it back, or convert it to MP3 on your PC for playback on a portable MP3 player (for personal use)

* View a high-resolution display screen showing scrolling text such as artist, song titles, news, sports results and more

* Set the timer and record favourite programs to an SD card and listen to them later.

The Bug will be on display with a range of other new receivers (pictured below) for the next three months. The digital radio centre is an initiative of the commercial radio industry, which is keen to introduce digital broadcasting technology across Australia.



Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner told radioinfo: “The leap in sound quality and features from AM/FM analogue radio to digital radio is stunning – it’s comparable to the change when TV went from black and white to colour.”

Digital radios sales are going strong in the UK, with an increase of over 200% in the past year. Further receiver innovations are also due this year, including new models which will be able to display pictures and logos, such as images of artists or traffic maps.

The manager of the PURE Digital Service Centre in Australia Graeme Redman says: “Australians are always keen on any new technology, and digital radio will be no exception. The excitement of features not available on analogue radio will drive interest and demand – including imaginative use of data, rewind radio and interference free sound.”

The commercial radio industry and public broadcasters are conducting trials of digital radio in Sydney but the Government has yet to develop a policy framework for a national roll out.

Recent research shows 68% of Australians would be interested in buying a digital radio if the service was available.

The technology is starting to take off worldwide, with more than 300 million people now receiving up to 600 digital services. There were 60 different digital radio receivers commercially available at the end of 2003 and this is expected to double by the end of 2004.

Pictures below: 2UE’s John Laws outside broadcast from the Domayne store and DRA stand.

While the focus was on receivers and forward progress today at the Domayne Store display, behind the scenes there is hard lobbying going on to persuade the government to accept Commercial Radio Australia’s proposed model for digital radio spectrum allocation.

CRA Chairman Rhys Holleran has recently written to Prime Minister Howard criticising the lack of progress in recent discussions, saying: “The statements are little more than motherhood statements designed to, in
our view, delay making any decision on this matter… In fact, if released as the government’s public position, these statements put the future of the entire industry at risk.”

An article in the Financial Review speculates that the government has “shelved decisions on the introduction of digital radio, outraging the radio industry, which has privately warned the Prime Minister that the sector’s future is at risk.”

Meanwhile CRA continues to be squeezed by rival multiplex operator Broadcast Australia, which is also testing digital radio in Melbourne and has begun a consumer panel.

While Broadcast Australia’s Clive Morton is on record as saying he is not in competition with CRA, the rivalry between the two organisations continues as the lobbying intensifies.