The Croatian Radio Forum is celebrating World Radio Day this year with the subject of “Digital Radio“. In your opinion, what is the future of digital radio?
Stefan Möller: In my view digital radio is part of our current hybrid radio. Radio needs to be available on several platforms to reach its listeners. For the time being the dominating terrestrial technology is still FM. But at the same time, we cannot imagine radio without being available online or without being in the smartphones and on all devices that people are using.
Radio’s future is digital but with a hybrid state of mind.
I do not believe it is the case of choosing between FM/AM and digital. It is not “either, or” it is “both” for now. Radio has never been afraid of taking on new technological development. Radio is totally digital when it comes to how radio is produced in the studio. But as radio needs to be free-to-air it needs to include several technologies to reach its listeners. Key words are “easy access” and “findability”. Consumers don´t care about technology, for them what matters is that radio is available on all the devices that they use despite of technology and that it is easy to access and use. If not – listeners will find other sources from where to get news, info, entertainment, audio and music.
Regarding digital services and platforms, will the radio as we know it be changed and in what form?
Stefan Möller: The key is once again access.
We need to ensure that access to radio is secured in a technological neutral manner both for listeners and for radio stations. I believe, as well as AER does, that partnerships like the Worldwide Radioplayer platform can help with this, but it may also require action from the EU through initiatives such as the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act.
Second key is fair competition.
Including fair competition with public broadcasters and especially digital platforms like Google and Facebook, which that have huge market power but no real regulation or responsibility.
I would rather say that radio as we know it is having a healthy development stage than that radio is totally changing.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the radio market a lot. On the other hand, this crisis showed the strength of the radio – people trust radio the most. Now we must face a post-COVID era: how will radio survive that?
Stefan Möller: Radio has always been a survivor.
Radio is resilient and adapting to the crisis: listening to radio is strong and has been increasing since the first lockdown – we saw a logical switch in behavior as people were listening to radio at home and less in the car. This strength means that audience and advertisers want to reach this audience and therefore likely to invest in radio advertising.
For many radio listeners the relationship grew deeper. And I believe that many non-radio listeners have during the crisis found themselves a new “trusted guide” to spend their time with and that relationship is continuing into the new normal.
You come from Finland – how does the radio industry stand in your country? Can you suggest some good examples that can be useful in Croatia?
Stefan Möller: Radio is the biggest medium together with TV when it comes to audience in Finland.
Radio reaches 95% of the population every week. Radio had before Corona a six-year period of constant growth to a total of 33 percent. We now look forward to picking up that path and continue to grow in the new normal until radio represents at least 7 percent of the media investments (currently our share is 5).
Radio is very local by nature so it is not that easy to suggest examples that will work on other markets. One thing is to assure with the local officials that radio needs to be free to air but also available to the listeners on all different platforms with equal rules to its competition. Radio is wanted because of its content but it is not enough if you cannot receive radio on the devices you are using.
One example from Finland is our implementation of the EECC directive. We managed to get the Finnish Parliament to approve an amendment to the law rendering FM radio receivers in cars mandatory in the new law as of December 2020. It is now both digital and analogue radio in new cars starting from January 2021.