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ABUGA 2014: Young broadcaster conference floated at ABU Radio Working Party

A conference for young broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific was one of several ideas floated at the 2014 ABU Radio Working Party meeting in Macau.

The meeting – one of several ABU events being held in the run up to the Union’s 50th Anniversary General Assembly in the Chinese Special Administrative Region – featured a special panel discussion on Staying Engaged, seeking ways of keeping radio relevant in a fragmenting digital world.

As well as the idea for a conference for young broadcasters, proposals for 2015 included workshops on media literacy, social media and digital literacy. ABU Secretary-General Dr Javad Mottaghi said the Union was ready to support an increase in Radio Working Party activities for next year.

The meeting at the Conrad Macau was opened by RWP Chair Ms Zakiah Halim, then the ABU’s Senior Officer for Radio, Mrs Vijay Sadhu, outlined radio activities undertaken since the last General Assembly, together with some upcoming events.

The panel discussion on Staying Engaged – Radio in the Asia-Pacific and Europe featured a number of speakers including Ms Ruxandra Obreja, Chair of the Digital Radio Mondiale Consortium, who said broadcasters must look beyond the dial because of digital competitors and surveys showing there were still lots of radio listeners but they were tuning in for shorter periods.

She said radio needed reinvention or it would perish. She advised broadcasters to not just repackage and stream what they had but to add new material.

She asked why so many broadcasters were persisting with business models rooted in the analogue past and not the digital future. They should see digital radio not as a short-term threat but as a long-term opportunity.

Deborah Steele of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said it was no longer sufficient to talk about radio. “It’s all about content, wherever it is,” she said.

Online was not just an add-on, it was actually the core of what broadcasters did. She said surveys had found how little time was spent on each item online. The days of sitting around for hours listening to radio were well gone. People now scanned, tried and maybe moved on.

Kath Brown of Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) said the in-car radio market was the industry’s to lose. Cars had AM/FM and DAB was in many cars in Europe but now the Pandora free personalised Internet radio was being installed in car radios – the company had a 60 per cent target for cars in Australia alone by 2015 – so there would be fierce competition as digital radio fought for space.

The meeting also heard a number of case studies in regional broadcasters’ responses to the challenges facing radio. Ms Nguyen Thuy Hoa, Deputy Director of Voice of Vietnam Online, said that due to fierce competition from television, online and mobile services, the listeners were losing the habit of tuning in to their radios, so VOV had to make major changes to stay relevant.

She said VOV had decided to use online to expand radio coverage, including: providing live streaming and audio on demand; increasing availability via PC, notebooks, smart phones and other types of mobile devices; setting up websites for VOV radio channels to interact with target audiences; running radio program fan pages on social networks such as Facebook and training radio staff in the benefits of Internet-based radio.

In the Radio Members’ Forum there were also enthusiastic presentations from ABS-CBN Philippines on how to engage audiences successfully and from IRIB-Iran on their most recent International Radio Conference.