Radio fair NAB: The radio reinvents itself

Status: 04/26/2022 7:34 p.m

The extent to which radio is changing becomes clear at the US broadcasting trade fair NAB: the production of radio content is becoming cheaper. Nevertheless, many broadcasters are finding it increasingly difficult.

By Marcus Schuler, ARD Studio Los Angeles, currently in Las Vegas

Dan McQuillen wants to radically simplify radio. Especially for those who work behind the microphone. With his British company “Broadcast Bionics”, McQuillen has developed a table that transforms any room into a radio studio. Four microphones are built into the table. Everything is operated via an iPad or smartphone. You simply click together the radio studio and what you need for the recording. A server in the basement then puts together a radio show, says McQuillen. “Before the pandemic, a lot of people smiled at us. But now we’ve proven that this mobility is absolutely necessary.”

“Everything moves to the cloud”

Today the BBC is one of his customers who use the table in their conference rooms. Radio journalists are benefiting from a development that was mainly accelerated by the pandemic. The so-called hardware can also be replicated in the form of software. This makes radio production significantly cheaper because it happens in the cloud. “Everything is moving to the cloud,” confirms Stephan Türkay. He works at Lawo, a company based in Rastatt in Baden that builds radio and TV studios all over the world. “With that comes new models. I choose what I need at the moment. And if I need more, I book that too.”

This, according to Türkay, is the most dramatic, the most drastic and also the most disruptive of all the upheavals that have taken place in the media industry so far: “Up to now, all functions were hardware. I no longer buy the infrastructure, I lease it. That captures the entire industry.”

Hybrid systems are the future of radio

The new world of radio is particularly visible to consumers in the car. Volkswagen and Audi are world leaders here because they already install hybrid radio systems in their vehicles. “This is the automatic seamless mix between broadcast and the Internet,” says Nick Piggott. He is head of Radio DNS, a UK-based organization that sets the global standard for hybrid radio.

“If the radio signal becomes too weak, it automatically switches to the Internet.” This means that if the radio signal via FM or DAB becomes too weak and you leave the reception area, you simply switch to the streaming offer of the radio station in question.

No extinction, but strong change

Fred Jacobsen from Detroit advises commercial and public radio stations in the USA. Above all, American private radio stations have problems financing themselves solely through advertising, he says. “That’s why they start podcast companies. They use radio to promote their other businesses. They look for opportunities that don’t just revolve around the medium of radio.”

Radio will not die out because of that. The experts at NAB agree on this. But radio content is becoming cheaper to produce, and broadcasters will have to offer new playout channels such as podcasts in order to remain in favor with listeners.

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Marcus Schuler, ARD Los Angeles, April 25, 2022 1:40 p.m