RadioAsia2014: Successes and challenges for Asian radio

padmakumar

An impassioned plea to Indian radio broadcasters from K. Padmakumar from Manipal University

Saturday’s final session at RadioAsia 2014 saw eight panelists from around the world share their expertise.

India

Radio listenership in India is going down not up, according to academic research, said K Padmakumar from the School of Communication at Manipal University.

Sounding a warning to private radio broadcasters ahead of Phase III of FM licencing, Padmakumar said a dearth of innovation in on-air programming and a lack of differentiation was to blame for the fall in listening.

Other issues include too many commercial activities – advertising and promotions in programming, he said.

Padmakumar added that there was too much pressure on on air talent as cost-cutting by stations had led to too much multi-tasking.

Phase III will see 839 FM frequencies auctioned many in India’s smaller cities and towns.

Digital Radio

Three Asian countries have begun or will start digital radio trials over the next few months, said Bernie O’ Neill, Project Director of World DMB.  A trial is already under way in Malaysia,  while Thailand (military coup permitting) and Indonesia are due to test the technology in 2014.

Hong Kong already has 15 DAB+ audio services live on air.  Over 300,000 devices have been sold in the territory to date.

Historically, one issue that has hampered digital radio take up has been the lack of support by car manufacturers.  But that is changing, said O’ Neill. New figures show 55 percent of new vehicles in the UK now come fitted with DAB digital radio.

Another panelist – Albert Tseng from Keystone Semiconducter, which manufactures digital radio chips – warned that take up of the technology was still slow and that killer applications and more compelling content were necessary for digital radio to succeed.

Digital Radio Consortium (DRM)

Giving an updated on DRM technology,  media specialist Sharad Sadhu said India’s public broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) continues to roll-out new transmitters, which are also capable of running the DRM standard.

AIR is current running probably the largest shortwave DRM service in the world and medium wave services are planned.

An estimated 78 new transmitters will ensure around 70 percent of the Indian population will be able to receive DRM services, when implemented.

Several DRM sets are now being produced.

Once again, Sadhu called for manufacturers to consider integrated digital radio chipsets, allowing FM, DAB+, DRM and other digital radio standards on the same radio set.

Bangladesh

Rafiqul Haque. Managing Director of Radio Today, Bangladesh updated the audience on the country’s nascent radio scene.  His station was the first private FM station in 2006.

When it first launched,  advertising agencies and listeners were sceptical.  But in eight short years, the station has built not only a successful brand but transformed radio into a much loved media.

While the station runs a music intensive format, Radio Today also features several radio drama series and community projects about health and well-being.

As a partner of Voice of America (VOA), the station broadcasts news bulletins from the international broadcaster.