BBC: Beware of the Norwegian experience
Many younger audiences rely on FM services, so removing them would risk losing more young audiences to non-UK streaming services, says the BBC's Chief Technology Officer Matthew Postgate appealing against switching off FM, because of the risk of users migrating to switching to music services such as Amazon Music and Spotify. Analogue radio, strongly driven by FM, remains the UK’s most popular, universal and reliable method of listening to radio. It accounts for 50% of time spent listening to radio in the UK, and is used by 70% of the population.
Committing to DAB broadcasts beyond the current charter period, Mr Postgate warned that FM was still used by 30% of the population as its only way of accessing radio, with the BBC aiming to continue to support a hybrid of FM, DAB and online radio for the time being.
Fears of a drop in radio audiences if an FM switch-off was implemented, mirroring the experiences of Norway, were also mentioned. During the summer, it was confirmed that radio listening in the country - which became the first in the world to switch national stations to DAB - had slumped, with some listeners abandoning radio once FM services had stopped. A report suggested the number of radio sets in use in Norway had fallen by almost a half. Following the announcement, some pointed to a natural drop in Norwegian radio listening during the summer months, while others demanded a return of FM broadcasts.
Postgate called on the industry to view the switch to online/IP radio as an opportunity to "innovate further and faster, offering greater discovery, services and functionality to audiences". He confirmed that the BBC will invest in IP technology and services to support the future of a vibrant radio industry to fight off non-UK competition.
We passionately believe in a universally accessible digital radio future. We want one that strengthens radio, not weakens it. We want one that draws younger audiences to radio, not one which pushes them away, says Matthew Postgate.
In an analysis a516digital.com comments that the 50% mark was due to act as a trigger for the government to consider a pathway to a digital-only future. But in the last few years, some of the largest growths have come from new online platforms, radio apps on smartphones and live streams via smart speakers, while listening to radio via digital TV services has fallen.
With 5G networks on the horizon, which promise to offer improved latency, some in the industry think this might well replace current digital radio networks.
Crucially, a decision to switch-off FM would force broadcasters to invest in additional DAB transmitters to fill the remainder of the network. With the rapid growth of online/IP services, there appears to be a growing reluctance to place all of the industry's "eggs" in the DAB basket according to a516digital.com.
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