Digging Into Radio’s Perspective Future

Michael McEwen

Taking the phrase “Go big or go home” to heart, the North American Broadcasters Association will lead a series of sessions called, appropriately, the “Future of Radio and Audio Symposium,” part of the Broadcast Engineering and IT Conference. Session panelists will hail from North America and Europe.

“The North American Broadcasters Association has previously organized three Future of Radio & Audio Symposiums (FRAS) as standalone events for our members in Toronto, Washington and Mexico City,” said NABA Director-General Michael McEwen described the idea behind the symposium. “This year we are happy to enter into a partnership with the NAB, a member of NABA, so that FRAS can take place during NAB Show in Las Vegas.”

He added, “The FRAS will benefit greatly from being a part of a huge and popular show and will add radio content to the BEITC agenda at NAB Show. In short, the purpose of FRAS is to provide
a sharing of insight and experiences from North American broadcasters about strategic trends, challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing digital and IP environment.”

The group plans to also present a paper titled “Value Proposition of Radio in a Connected World,” written by NABA’s Radio Committee.

One highlight from the paper is: “Members of the North American Broadcasters Association feel that radio, as a technology and industry, holds a strong market position and should capitalize on these strengths. Members of NABA also feel radio as an industry must constantly consider strategic adjustments to continue holding this strong market position. Technology and market forces bring change. The radio industry should seek to stay vital by taking advantage of these changes, and not be content with entrenchment.”

After opening remarks by McEwen Sunday morning, April 7, the first session will be “The Next Generation of Radio” at 10:45 a.m. The session will address changing technologies in audio distribution options and how/why/if a station should get involved in audio beyond standard over-the-air broadcast. Is adding broadcast and online metadata worth the additional work?

Next in the lineup is the session “Digital Radio Roll Out Around the World.” Digital radio news seems is making news in Europe and countries like India and China these days. Asked if the North American digital radio effort has lost momentum, McEwen replied, “No, in fact it is gaining momentum and we will examine the rollout in North America in context with that of Europe and Asia/Australia.”

He pointed to an excerpt from the planned paper: “Digital radios using IBOC are growing in number, but have not totally penetrated the new car market, and there are still many cars with analog-only radios on the road. According to Xperi Corp., in Q4 2018, HD Radio technology was estimated to be in over 50 percent of new cars sold in the U.S., with an installed base approaching 54 million.”

The final session will be “Connected Car/Audio on Demand/Advertising and Big Data.” The forthcoming NABA paper says: “While many [connected car] functions require a bidirectional communications path, a significant portion of the data burden could be off-loaded to broadcast radio by doing what the frequency band does best: delivering one-to-many content. Widely disseminated information can be efficiently transmitted utilizing a data network over in-band on-channel digital FM, or for smaller capacity needs the Radio Data System digital subcarrier over analog FM.”

McEwen urges show attendees to check out the symposium. “The opportunity to discuss strategic radio issues at NAB Show allows the many radio broadcasters attending to spend a few hours getting a chance to hear what some of radio’s thought leaders are saying about a broad sweep of our industry’s issues. One of the big draws of the FRAS is the international perspective. With panelists from Europe, Australia and from across North America, the sessions will feature a true breadth of knowledge.”