The secret to achieve a growing radio industry could be as simple as this... | radioinfo

The secret to achieve a growing radio industry could be as simple as this...

Sunday 16 September, 2018
Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

I’m writing this in London, where the doors are (as I type) just about to open for Next Radio, the radio conference that I run here with my friend Matt Deegan. It’s a positive radio conference with an uplifting feel.

Go to a radio conference in the US or Canada, and there won’t be very many smiling faces. There’s a general feeling in the US and Canada that radio is managing decline. But in other countries, radio is behaving differently.

The UK commercial industry has grown, over the past year, by 5.2%. It’s now a US $887m market. 

Australian commercial radio has grown too - over the past year, metro stations growing 3.8% to a US $573m market (and there’s more from the regions, too). 

Commercial radio in Finland is growing, too. Their figures are harder to decipher, but July grew by 6.6% over June; and June grew by 17% over May. The market’s comparatively small at about US $93m - but it’s doing better than the UK if you bear in mind Finland’s small population.

These aren’t the stories you hear from the US and Canada; and I’m often asked why.

It’s not an easy answer.

The UK’s seen relaxation of some regulations, and has a strongly multiplatform market (with AM/FM listening at under 50%). Brand consolidation has been an important part of the industry, as has national broadcasting.

Australia’s regulation has historically been quite relaxed, too, but it isn’t particularly multiplatform. Brand consolidation has occurred here as well, with great swathes of radio stations losing their heritage callsigns in favour of more straightforward national branding.

Finland has rejected digital radio, so isn’t multiplatform to any great extent. Much of radio is national, though there are a good number of local stations too. There’s no particular story of brand consolidation either.

So - at first glance, there’s nothing in common particularly to these markets. Except, I think, there is. And it’s probably rather more simple than you’d think.

In the UK, commercial radio has an effective industry body, Radiocentre. They promote the medium to agencies, lobby government, and sing radio’s praises. They’re really very good at it.

In Australia, commercial radio, too, has an effective industry body. It’s called Commercial Radio Australia, and they, too, promote the medium to agencies, lobby government, and sing radio’s praises. They’re tenacious and efficient.

And in Finland, their industry body is Radio Media. They lobby government, promote the medium to agencies, and market radio as well: to great effect.

Unlike North America, these industry bodies only look after radio. They don’t represent television broadcasters as well. There’s no conflict of interest here. Their only concern is a healthy radio industry. And they do that one job very successfully.

And, unlike North America, there’s one organisation doing everything from advertising promotion to lobbying and research. One, simple, straightforward organisation, made up of a membership of commercial radio broadcasters.

Perhaps one of the ways for a successful, growing, industry really is as easy as copying these successful countries - and establishing an industry association that has only one focus: radio.

About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland




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17 September 2018 - 8:33pm
The demise of the US radio industry would no doubt have a LOT to do with the resource stripping carried out by large radio owners like Clear Channel which has converted vibrant regional radio business units into irrelevant, sad, and locally-resented outposts of L.A. & N.Y. radio.

Australian owners of regional radio would do well to take note.
Anthony The Koala
18 September 2018 - 12:18am
While I need to research more about new technologies, I must make a remark about the new kinds of broadcasting technology that have been introduced in the last 20 years. In radio broadcasting, AM as a modulation method for broadcasting has existed for nearly 90+ years, FM for nearly 70 years and 60 years mono-compatible subcarrier (stereo, acs, rds (later on)). That is relative stability. In the last 20 years we've seen DAB with MPII, DAB+ with MPIII and HE-AAC lossy compression, HD and DRM. Similarly for TV, (I'm skipping the history of 30-line, 405-line and 819-line transmissions) we had NTSC (65 years), PAL (55 years) and SECAM (50 years). In the short time of DVB-T in Australia, 18 years, there were issues of TVs made before 2010 not being able to decode H-264 HD transmissions used by all Australian DVB-T TV stations.

Sure there are more efficient compression algorithms delivering higher quality pictures in the same spectrum for a given analogue or digital spectrum. However with constant changes to broadcasting technology in shorter period of time, will the consumer be willing to change every few years to keep up-to-date with the latest modulation method of HD radio, DRM. Same question could be asked whether we will want to change TV receivers to DVB-T2 (Yes there are UHD tvs, but they only have HD tuners).

On the other hand, implementation of changes in technology may well have to be implemented in software as alluded to by Mr Thompson's Linkedin article. At the moment software implementations of the latest algorithms are implemented on PCs with a USB-dongle, typically one with an RL2832 chip. There doesn't appear to be affordable consumer TV and RADIO receivers which have hardware to compute any algorithm 'thrust' upon it,

Though as an aside, SDR radio can be used to significantly reduce noise and increase in bandwidth for AM-reception!

The question becomes, given the introduction of new modulation and compression algorithms over the last 20 years, could we see the introduction of SDR television and radio such that our receivers are future-poroofed against obsolete and less efficient algorithms without the need to buy a new radio or TV using the current technology?

Another thought on Mr Cridland's article. I would like to know the breakdown of breakdown of technologies used in UK given that less than 50% of listeners use AM or FM. Is it DAB, satellite radio, IP streaming services such as Spotify, iTunes, podcasts to name a few?

Anthony of exciting Belfield
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