The three-day Radio Asia 2010 got underway in Delhi on February 22. This is the first time that this conference is being held in India and the theme is ‘Journey to the Digital Land’. The event saw industry experts from India and abroad highlighting the need to push for digital in radio medium too and discussing the various challenges ahead.
‘Ready for digital future?’ was the topic for the first session. Kudsia Kahar, General Manager, AMP Radio Networks, Malaysia, moderated the session. She noted, “Ten years back, the word ‘digital’ had very different meanings. It used to be referred as an expansive, unwanted and complicated medium. But now, this conception has changed dramatically. Digital medium is the best, more profitable and workable now.”
Through an informative presentation, Joan Warner, CEO, Commercial, Radio Australia, put forward his point of views. He noted, “Lots of investment in radio domain is being done in Australia. DAB+ has re-energised the radio industry in Australia. DAB+ is on for just over six years and more than 55 DAB+ stations are on air today through which 60 per cent people receive DAB+ signals. Radio needs to go digital in order to remain relevant. Also, it’s a future proof investment. This is the right time when strategic thinking and long term steps need to be put forward.”
Zohra Chatterji, Joint Secretary, Broadcasting, India, took the session forward with a presentation on the Indian radio industry. She stated, “In India, there are three kinds of radio services available – public, private and community radio services. There is a huge scope for expansion of the industry as only 60 per cent people can access radio in the country. 92 per cent can access AIR, whereas only 35 per cent can access FM radio. At present, community radio is mostly available in educational institutions only, but has a robust future ahead.”
She further said, “Digital radio will energise the industry, because it’s a very vigorous and interactive platform. Migration of AIR to digital will pave the path for other players as well. To foray into the digital domain, additional programming and value added services are greatly needed. In the next few years, work is going to start on digitisation of radio. The Planning Commission will study the digitisation of broadcasting.”
Masayuki Takada, Senior Research Engineer Science & Technology Research Laboratories, NHK, put forward his views on innovation of digital radio in Japan, as well as the mobile multimedia broadcasting in VHF band.
Mohammed Hossein Soufi, VP, Radio IRIB, Iran, observed that western countries were using many advanced technology, and developing countries were often copying the technology of the West.
Putting forward his point of view on digital radio’s future, Mark Bunting, Head of Strategy, BBC Global News Division, said, “In the UK, 34 per cent of the people listened to the radio via the Internet. Radio is a very effective medium. Despite the rise of news channels and the digital medium, audiences still see radio as an immediate medium, which can spread news faster than any other medium.”
He further commented that audience for radio was decreasing in the UK. Younger audiences, who are switching over to other new mediums, are not coming back to the radio. But in the digital space, compelling consumer experience and better service would definitely drive the growth, Bunting affirmed.