Wednesday 17 August 2016

Hongkong DAB Broadcaster Can't Compete With FM - Signs Off

Government will not support closing analogue radio
Digital Broadcasting Corporation is going off-air and has applied to return its license to the government, citing “unsatisfactory” developments in the digital radio industry. Job losses will total 113. DBC boss Loh Chan said the move was not due to immediate financial difficulties, but a lack of prospects in digital broadcasting and government policies that failed to help digital radio reach a wider audience, causing difficulties in attracting advertising.

After six years we are still facing a lot of difficulties, especially in terms of distribution and a [lack of digital audio] reception in car radios, he said, describing the situation as “unfair”. Even if the government requires all 50,000 imported cars every year to be equipped with both FM and DAB radio players, it would still take us 12 years to compete on the same footing with FM radio broadcastersUnder such circumstances ... I can say for sure digital broadcasting does not work at all. 

DBC had explored applying for an FM licence, but spare frequencies were not available. The government’s implementation plans for digital radio were put in place in 2010.

DBC co-founder and former lawmaker “Taipan” Albert Cheng King-hon said neither policy nor the business model was to blame, but the station’s failure to make use of its digital platform and produce content that people wanted. Content is king, said Cheng, who went on to found internet radio station D100. People want an independent voice but that was gone with my departure.

Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung expressed regret at DBC’s “commercial decision” but said there was no plan to kill off analogue. We can’t force residents to switch to digital audio from FM. We don’t think it’s something Hong Kong residents want either, he said. The Office of the Communications Authority says DBC must continue to operate until it is permitted to go off air.

DBC is the second broadcaster to surrender its DAB+ licence in a year, leaving only two others in the field – Metro Broadcast and government-owned RTHK. Phoenix URadio earlier returned its licence.

Government policy alone cannot rescue DAB comments South China Morning Post. For the sector to survive, operators must meet market demand and the key to that, as always, is to remember that content is king

Given the mass media environment has become increasingly challenging, the Digital Broadcasting Corporation’s decision to shut down does not come as a surprise. Be that as it may, the government should review its policy and spell out the future for digital audio broadcasting, if any.

Indeed, traditional media organisations have been struggling to stay afloat as the internet and social media have made further inroads into the business in recent years and radio stations are not exempt. Even before the introduction of DAB in 2011, radio audiences have been declining. While some radio stations may boast of millions of downloads of their mobile phone applications, the actual number of people listening is another matter.

The challenges facing newcomers are even greater. The relatively high cost of digital receivers has inevitably dampened the incentive for a change in listening habits. This is not helped when the government has no intention of phasing out analogue radio any time soon according to the newspaper. 

Read the articles in South China Morning Post: