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Radio is in its greatest period of change

BBC Radio is facing “seismic shifts in deep-seated listening behaviour” says the Head of Radio, Helen Boaden.

Helen felt that whilst radio in the UK is in great health with highest ever reach, beneath the headlines there are some problems – hours per listener is declining, for young people, their time spent listening has dropped a quarter and the growth of screens provides a challenge for radio’s traditionally audio-only position.  Watch her full keynote speech - and read the rest of the article below.



Helen also talked about the growth of on-demand media creating a new type of consumer, expecting all media – including radio – on their own terms.

Helen looks at many of these issues as “Iceberg Challenges” – something coming slowly towards us, where we can see the top, but not sure how big the problem is.

Across BBC Radio the heart of their strategy involves two words – digital and distinctiveness – with each of their networks interpreting in a different way.

Helen talked widely about their approach on mobile. She worries that app-driven radio suffers from issues with battery life, buffering and bill-shock, which is why they’re supporting the EBU’s smartphone project, encouraging phone manufacturers to combine broadcast and IP. This is all part of the innovation the corporation’s engaged in – whether that’s Surround Sound trials for BBC Radio 3, RadioTAG for hybrid devices or DAB+ tests. The BBC’s high level of funding, Helen thought, meant it was the BBC’s job to provide risk capital for the radio industry.

Broadcast is, however, hugely important for the BBC. In the UK digital broadcast is dominated by DAB - it provides the biggest share of hours - a quarter of all radio listening and two thirds of digital listening. It’s simple, free and listeners love it, which is why the BBC is rolling out local coverage to 90% and national services to 97%. For Helen though, to get to switchover it’s going to take a big push from broadcasters, government and the supply chain to work together to bring listeners along too.

Helenn Boaden interviewed by Trevor Dann, Radiodays Europe: