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ABU GA – Radio has new role, ABU experts contend

Radio still has a real role to play in the Asia-Pacific media landscape, but not in its original form.

That was the outcome of a debate at the ABU Radio Working Party meeting in Hanoi, part of the Union’s 50th General Assembly being held from 23-29 October in the Vietnamese capital.

Industry leaders from the Asia-Pacific and around the world challenged conventional assumptions to argue whether radio was still “Captain of the Airwaves”.

In a debate moderated by consultant Steve Ahern, both sides recognised that radio must continue to evolve to have relevance.

Speakers such as Hugh Chiverton of Radio Television Hong Kong and Voice of Vietnam’s Le Huy Nam told a packed hall at the Melia Hotel Hanoi that radio was still everywhere, unlike print that was declining. But increasingly radio was part of a suit of different media delivering content to consumers

Opposing the proposition, the ABC’s Deborah Steele said the broadcast airwaves “are not as relevant as they used to be.

“In the Pacific, radio is still king, but in Asia and Australia that is no longer the case, the audience wants more,” she said.

Kabul Budiono from Radio Republik Indonesia said that in a big country such as Indonesia, where 80 percent of the population lived in rural areas, radio was still important but that consumption patterns are changing rapidly.

The debate ranged across the world, from Norway, where digital radio had revitalised radio consumption, to India, where enthusiasm for radio had increased as a result of competition and Fiji where television was growing but radio was still king.

Other contributors added to the debate. Norihito Saito, a Senior Producer at NHK Japan, described the importance of NHK Radio’s role in delivering safety information to save lives, though much information was migrating to the Internet.

Ruxandra Obreja, President of Digital Radio Mondiale, said: “We need to sell radio again, we must market the new features of digital radio to listeners and to governments.”

Xia Jixuan, Vice-President of China Radio International spoke of CRI’s use of what it calls ‘micro-films’, short videos that supported radio with multimedia content.

Behrouz Razavinejad, a Senior Advisor at IRIB Iran, said radio was an important part of Iran’s culture, while in two video messages Commercial Radio Australia’s Joan Warner and Radio New Zealand’s Paul Bushnell presented case studies on how to develop radio.

As a result of ABU’s children’s programming workshops, a proposal had been put to the ABU to create an Asia-Pacific Children’s Podcast Channel, to be debated by the General Assembly.