Radio’s quest to maintain Prominence

Comment from Peter Saxon –

Today is a big day for Commercial Radio and Audio. A contingent from CRA, led by CEO  Ford Ennals will descend upon the nation’s capital to deliver a:

SUBMISSION BY COMMERCIAL RADIO & AUDIO REGARDING

THE COMMUNICATIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT

(PROMINENCE AND ANTI-SIPHONING) BILL 2023

It is designed to draw the attention of our lawmakers to the tragedy that would befall our industry and our listeners (their constituents) if radio did not retain its prominent  position in the car, the home and in the workplace as consumers migrate to smart devices on digital platforms.

I first spoke to Mr Ennals in May 2022, soon after he took up the position that heads up CRA. He told me, “What we do in the next two or three years will probably end up defining the future of radio.”

He wasn’t kidding. Here’s what’s at stake…

Prior to the advent of smart devices, the business model for radio and television was simple: A strictly limited number of stations were licensed by the government to erect an antenna that emits a linear program signal on an allocated frequency, over a specific area that could be picked up by a television or radio ‘set,’ purchased for the task. And those sets had to comply to Australian standards so that they could receive all the frequencies, and only those frequencies, that the government had licensed. That’s no longer the case.

Today, there’s a myriad devices through which one can listen to or watch content on live or on-demand, with or without a broadcast licence. Plus, there’s a bewildering amount of content available through hundreds of channels. Sorting through all this can be a  consumers’nightmare – one that only a smart TV, smart speaker or smart  dashboard can adequately address.

Suddenly, the way a car dashboard is configured becomes of vital importance to radio which is no longer a physical, stand alone. built-in device in modern vehicles but a virtual icon on a page of an infotainment system that it shares with streamed music, podcasts as well as audio from a variety TV and newspaper content via apps such as YouTube. The same screen also deals with maps, phone messages and parking cameras.

“Platforms like Google and Amazon are the gatekeepers…. access to platforms is something that we need to be across,” Ford Ennals

But the really smart thing about smart devices is that because they have limited screen space, meaning the demand is greater than supply, they can, and do, monetise access to it. So, now, instead of a direct connection between the transmitter and a listener through their radio – there is a third party in between, that’s happy to clip the ticket along the way.

Take my Apple TV, for example. It’s a small, easy to use interface that when plugged into the back of any TV turned it into a smart TV – before “smart” was even a thing in terms of devices. Through Apple TV one could rent or buy movies and watch or listen to content made by Apple as well as scroll through your photo library while you listen to music from your Apple Music playlists. The Apple TV was also an early aggregator of other channels such as Netflix, Stan and the RadioApp. For me, that little black box  was a very useful bit of kit. It currently sells for around $240 but I doubt it’s selling like it used to.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a new 65” LG OLED Smart TV. I was about to upgrade to the latest 4K version of my Apple TV to take advantage of the improved picture quality when I realised that the latest Apple TV could be installed as an app on the LG for free. So, not only did Apple miss out on getting my $240 for its latest little black box, but it is asked to pay LG (and other major brands) a fee for the space they occupy on screen.

Australia’s RadioApp which is steadily replacing physical radio sets is also available on my LG TV and throughout the house on all three computers, an iPad, Apple Watch TV and smart speakers. It sounds great for radio to be so ubiquitous, but in reality, where it dominated the live to air audio space through a single purpose device, aptly called a “radio,” its presence is being diluted by the number of audio competitors on each device.

The real issue in the digital world is “prominence”. It’s not enough for a brand/product/business to be on the internet, you have to be on the first page of a Google search for full impact.

BTW: Next time you get one of those unsolicited emails about getting you a #1 ranking, tell them: I Googled you and still hadn’t found you after 6 pages. Come back when you’re #1 on Google and we’ll talk.

ABC Radio, SBS and CBAA have made separate submissions as has FTA Television. You can read all those submissions here.

You can read CRA’s full submission via the link below.

CRA submission on prominence FINAL 2 Feb 2024

Peter Saxon