Digital radio boost won't help switchover target, say analystsDigital radio listening has experienced a major boost according the latest set of industry data but analysts are calling the lift artificial’ and say the 2015 digital switchover target date is still ‘out of reach’.By Emma Barnett, Technology and Digital Media Correspondent13 May 2010The latest Rajar [Radio Joint Audience Research] figures show that digital radio listening has increased by nearly a fifth in the last year and now accounts for 24 per cent of all radio consumption.However, the spike is being called “highly untypical” by analysts and thought to be the result of two anomalies which occurred during the last three months. Firstly 6 Music, the BBC’s under threat digital-only radio station, has seen its audience almost double in the last three months.The proposed closure of 6 Music was announced in March and the resulting publicity – as politicians and musicians joined the protest – has helped to raise awareness. The new figures, which cover January to March, show the station's average weekly audience for the period increased by 47.2 per cent.Secondly, Rajar has managed to reduce the percentage of radio listening that respondents do not allocate to either analogue or digital. This percentage of unspecified data has dropped by 3.2 per cent in the last three months – moving from 12.5 per cent to 9.3 per cent. As a result both digital and analogue (FM and AM) listening figures have benefited, hence another reason for the spike in digital radio listening share.Grant Goddard, an independent radio analyst, said: “Yes, the figures for digital radio listening are up, but its an artificial spike – as its much bigger than the usual increase between quarters. Plus analogue figures are also up, which is unusual, as both sets of data have been given an artificial boost by the decrease in the amount of Rajar respondents not specifying whether they have listened to radio via analogue or digital platforms.”Goddard said that if the rate of digital radio listening, which increased its weekly reach by 15 per cent on the year, taking it to 38.5 per cent, continued at its usual quarterly percentage increase, it would not reach its 50 per cent listening target by 2013, as set by the former government as part of the Digital Economy Act, which is one of the key prerequisites for digital radio switchover to be achieved by 2015.Instead, Goddard said it would take until at least 2018 for 50 per cent of all radio listening to be via a digital platform – whether that be through DAB, digital TV, mobile phones or the web.Owen Watters, sales and marketing director at Roberts Radio, is also sceptical that the 2015 switchover data can be met. He is concerned about DAB’s still limited reach and also about getting it into cars. Watters called the target date “unrealistic” and highly dependent on a fully committed government. .“Bearing in mind there will be at least another election taking place in this period, a lack of will, or a change of priority, investing in the necessary infrastructure could become a major obstacle to the digital migration process…. A more realistic target date for migration is likely to be 2020, but even this could be ambitious,” he explained.However, Ford Ennals, the chief executive of Digital Radio UK, believes that the country is still on track to hit the 2015 target.“If digital radio listening continues to increase by three percentage points each quarter from now until 2013, as it has in this latest set of Rajar results, we will hit the 50 per cent target and be ready to switchover in 2015.”Ennals said that the majority of the boost, which came from the decrease in unspecified data, benefited the FM/AM listening figures and not the digital listening figures – meaning that the digital boost should be seen as ‘real’.A Rajar spokesman said that they did not know how much analogue or digital figures had received a boost.Paul Kennedy, Research Director, Rajar, said: “There has been a reduction in “Analogue/Digital Not Stated” this quarter, falling from 12.5% to 9.3%...There is no reason to suspect that the reduction in the unspecified listening has disproportionately benefited either the analogue or digital totals.“While Digital Radio will undoubtedly have been boosted by the reduction in the “unspecified” figure, it is Rajar’s view that the majority of the increase in Digital Radio’s share of listening is real, possibly helped by the seasonal lift in DAB radio sales and the heightened interest in BBC 6 Music in addition to organic growth.”Ennals, in an interview with The Telegraph last week, said that the former government’s decision not to set a switchover date, in the Digital Economy Act, was a deliberate attempt to make the process ‘consumer-led’, which is how it should be. He is confident that the Act will now encourage broadcasters and manufacturers to get the market moving.He also revealed that two commercial radio groups will launch two new digital-only stations in the next six months.
14 maggio 2010
RAJAR, ascolto digital in crescita in UK. O no?
RAJAR, l'Audiradio britannico (a proposito, ma quanto ci mette Audiradio a pubblicare i dati relativi al primo trimestre 2010?) ha appena pubblicato dati che vedono in fortissima crescita l'ascolto della radio digitale, come del resto l'insieme dell'ascolto della radio tout court. Come sapete questo è un fattore determinante in base alla legislazione approvata recentemente in Gran Bretagna, che fissa per il 2015 l'inizio dello switchoff della radio analogica, a patto che si raggiunga rapidamente una certa percentuale di ascolto "solo digitale". Secondo il Telegraph però alcuni analisti sostengono che i dati forniti non siano veritieri, che nella realtà la radio digitale impiegherà ancora parecchi anni per raggiungere le soglie di penetrazione del 50% necessarie per dare l'ok allo spegnimento. E' una questione complicata perché è obiettivamente difficile ricavare dati molto attendibili con metodi a campione, per di più basati su questionari le cui risposte vanno prese con le molle. In molte abitazioni inglesi sono in funzioni apparecchi DAB, questo è innegabile. Ma la mia esperienza mi dice che l'ascolto del DAB può risultare davvero problematico all'interno delle case, dove il segnale arriva molto debole. Sono pronto a scommettere che in molti casi la gente ascolta i programmi in FM analogica e risponde in perfetta buona fede di averlo fatto con una radio digitale. Ma non posso dimostrarlo, mentre RAJAR può sempre dire che i suoi dati sono statisticamente corretti. Divertente vedere che tra le emittenti più premiate c'è BBC Radio 6, canale solo DAB che in teoria dovrebbe essere tagliato per mancanza di fondi.
In ogni caso sono in molti a concordare sulla fretta eccessiva che il governo laburista ha impresso a un percorso di digitalizzazione che non sembra così fondamentale. E che sicuramente non risolve il grosso problema della quasi totale assenza di soluzioni per l'ascolto della radio digitale a bordo delle automobili.