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RadioAsia 2014: Apps, mobile devices bring radio out from shadow of TV, conference told

Mobile devices and new apps present opportunities for radio to step out of the shadows of television, an ABU broadcasting conference in Sri Lanka has heard.

Several speakers at RadioAsia2014 in Colombo stressed the new opportunities for radio, including British broadcaster and academic Steve Taylor, who said social media and smart mobile devices had given radio the opportunity to speak to listeners in a new way, helping it get back to its role as a music recommendation medium and as a medium for dialogue.

“People are accessing radio in new ways now, through apps and through mobile,” he said. “This is an opportunity for radio to step out of the shadows.” 

Mr Taylor, a former broadcaster at London’s XFM who now teaches at the University of Northampton, said: “Even though anyone can do that now on social media, people who work in radio know well how to engage with audiences, so we can do it better than most.”

In a panel discussion chaired by Commercial Radio Australia’s Joan Warner, discussion focused on radio’s role in enhancing the knowledge society and ranged from FM radio on phones in India to the inclusion of digital radio chips into smart phones in Australia. 

Hong Kong-based Asia Radio Today’s James Ross said when he travelled to work on the city’s metro, he listened to radio through apps on his smart phone.

“There are so many screens about in the world now, I spend a lot of time trying to actively avoid looking at a screen, so I listen to the radio wherever and whenever I can,” said Mr Ross.

RTHK’s Hugh Chiverton discussed how radio broadcasters should help listeners to turn all the information available into knowledge that would enrich the planet. 

“Live radio is a place where people can do something with the information they receive to generate knowledge. Humans like talking, so radio will never go away,” he said.

Delegates at RadioAsia2014 heard about a BBC-funded project targeting underprivileged women in media dark areas of India who gathered round a radio in listening clubs each week, learning to change their communities for the better.

Rob Graham of EON Media company in Singapore said that although algorithms used by streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify could compile individual playlists, they could not predict hits before the data was returned, whereas experienced radio presenters could.

“The people involved in music radio have the expertise to predict hits and help listeners discover good new music,” Mr Graham said. “Streaming services can’t do that.”