Digital Single Market – Radio’s Access to Infrastructure – The Future of Radio is Multi-Platform
AER continues to support a multi-platform future for radio. As well as analogue broadcast streams and digital broadcast signals the inclusion of other digital means of transmission in radio receivers, such as internet reception, will help to ensure a continuing healthy radio market in Europe. Multi-standard solutions – which would allow all devices to listen to radio throughout the continent – is a positive signal for future developments.
AER supports multi-standard solutions for devices as part of a multi-platform future for radio
In order to fully develop radio on all platforms new radio receivers should also embrace internet radio. New devices such as mobile phones or tablets should be encouraged to integrate and enable analogue and digital broadcast standards with internet radio. The future of radio is multi-standard and multi-platform, leaving flexibility for new business models enabled by actors such as RadioDNS.
1. Radio’s future is multiplatform
- Radio remains primarily a broadcast medium – it is still unclear how transmission of radio via internet will develop. From this perspective, in most of Europe, currently and for the foreseeable future, the main viable business model for the majority of existing radios is free-to-air FM broadcasting on band II (87.5-108 MHz). In some EU Member States, listening is still performed by AM. There are approximately 4 to 5 radio receivers in every household in Europe. Besides, during manmade or natural disasters, radio is the first – and possibly the only remaining – tool to inform the public.
- Radio needs to be on every platform: radio’s future is a mix of broadcasting and internet transmissions – as it has been for the past 50 years, radio is everywhere, mobile, simple-to use, interactive and free-to-air. These features make it the most intimate and most trusted medium (Standard Eurobarometer Survey of Autumn 2014 (EB82)). Listeners need to rely on the ability to receive radio on these same terms in the future, by analogue and digital broadcasting as well as internet transmissions. These means of transmission will all be part of the patchwork of transmission techniques for commercially funded radio in the future. It is therefore essential that any integrated device (phone, tablet, etc.) contains a chip that enables listening to the radio by analogue and digital broadcast as well as online means. When these chips are set on devices, they should be activated.
2. Radio’s best regulatory conditions ensuring access to infrastructure
- Radio is local, regional or national: regulatory decisions should continue to be taken at the same level – national radio frequency landscapes and national radio broadcasting markets are different, with divergent plans for digitisation, diverse social, cultural and historical characteristics and with distinct market structures and needs. Consequently, further coordination at EU level of spectrum management on the bands used by radio does not seem necessary, or appropriate.
- Radio’s access to bands II and III as a primary and unique user is paramount to ensure a healthy future for radio – as broadcasting is and will remain the backbone for all radio transmissions, it is essential that radios’ access to the bands mentioned above is preserved. Most commercially funded radios are SMEs. They are in no position to compete with other market players for spectrum. There should be no market-based approaches for spectrum management of radio bands.
- No EU switch-off date for analogue radio broadcasting services should be envisaged – across the EU, plans to migrate from analogue technology to digital broadcast technology are being actively discussed and tested. Decisions on whether to proceed and the appropriate time-frame should be left to each national industry.
- The open internet must remain open – when radio is listened to online, the quality of services provided should be at least equal to broadcasting on-air: uninterrupted transmission of programmes. However, commercial radios are, in their vast majority, SMEs: they are in no position to financially compete for access to the internet with other market players. There should be no restriction created by introducing new categories within the open internet and as a consequence set obstacles to “best effort” and media pluralism in the long term.
- Radios must be found online – it must be easy to find radios in an online environment: a must-be-found principle could be applied for radio online. At least, and given the fact that search engines constitute essential facilities online, search results should objectively reflect the search request, without undue (commercial) influence on these results. Search results should equally not end up privileging services owned, administered or controlled, in whole or in part, by search engines.
Contact: Vincent Sneed, AER Director Regulatory Affairs / vincent.sneed @ aereurope.org