Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Where is radio going?

Despite a rather upbeat piece on yesterday's World Business Report ( BBC World Service) I cannot see the digital radio standard DRM taking off in India. It has been tried in Europe, Brazil, China, Russia - it's a technological solution to a problem that only radio engineers seem to understand.

I think I've worked out how the BBC World Service made that shortwave montage in the piece below. You got to the website Interval signals on line and click Alaska and Andorra. Pity that the recording from AWR via Andorra dates back to 1981.

More than eighty years ago, the BBC began transmitting its first international radio broadcasts - on what was then known as the Empire Service. These days of course, we call it the World Service. What made the first international broadcasts possible was shortwave - a set of radio frequencies which allowed signals to travel very long distances - even if the end results could sound a little bit, well, odd. These days, though far fewer broadcasters focus on shortwave. Here at the BBC, even, our transmissions have been heavily cut back. Instead, we use the internet, as well as relying on local FM broadcasters. But could shortwave - or a version of it - be about to make a comeback? Here's Mark Whittaker with news of what could be a radio revolution. And you may like to know that the BBC is already broadcasting in digital short wave for 5 hours a day to India and India's domestic radio station is currently building one digital medium wave transmitter every two weeks. A new wave of cheaper DRM receivers are expected to be on the market in the coming months.

To get a feeling of how radio markets are changing, have a look at some of the excellent, short but sharp interviews conducted by Trevor Dann at the recent RadioDays Europe convention in Dublin, Ireland. 

Very interesting point about radio sales in the UK, from BBC Director of Radio, Helen Boaden.Radio sales are falling, while the sale of smartphones and tablets are booming. Time spent listening to radio are going down in all age groups -- especially among the 15 to 30 year olds. These are "iceberg" challenges coming slowly towards us where we can see the top, but do not know quite how deep the problem may be, she says. Sales of radio sets in the UK are down by a staggering 54%. Radio is in direct competition with all other media in the fight for attention.

And news that there are DAB+ trials going on in the UK.

and let's not forget the role of radio in difficult countries. I get the impression that after completely opening up, the situation in Myanmar is not as good as it was a year ago.

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