Words by Marie-Pierre Moalic & Francesca Fabbri, AER – Association of European Radios

Radio is the most intimate medium: radio listeners access programming they enjoy and useful information. Radio plays a fundamental role in today’s society: it is often quoted as the most trusted medium by citizens, and, as national audience measurement shows, 80% of the EU population on average listens to radio for at least 2 or 3 hours per day.


Radio is…


Radio is a mixture of audio content which is well-edited and well-produced.

Content is Free-To-Air / Free-To-Access /Free-To-Use, transmitted via wired or wireless means – such as, first and foremost, broadcast, but also cable, satellite or online – and typically consists of talk, stories, entertainment, news, music and surprises. Radio is the most intimate medium: its character is by nature local, regional or at the utmost national – and so is its audience: listeners are interested in their local news, their local service information, their local weather forecasts, their local traffic jams, the advertising of their local furniture shop, the comedy piece about a local politician, told in the local dialect of their local DJ.

Radio is diverse: each country has its own media and radio landscape, depending on various local factors (of historical, cultural, or political nature). All countries in Europe have a range of stations with different owners offering a wide spectrum of content to the audience.

Listeners listen to their local and regional radio station because of the complete, fast and relevant service of public interest that these stations provide. So, no matter what technology will bring radio, no matter how many other audio offers and radio services will be available to people, there will always be an important place and an important role to play for local and regional radio stations, as long as they do not neglect their core competencies that make them unique!

In today’s digital world, radio reaches more people than any other media platform: it is the mass medium that reaches the widest audience in the world.

On the one hand, with most of its listening still done by the reception of broadcast content, radio as a medium is an extremely robust source of information. In the case of natural or manmade disasters, radio is the first and fastest tool to inform the public, enabling people to receive real-time information on the ongoing situation. Also, radio is often quoted as the most trusted medium[1] by citizens, they can be assured to be listening to a content of quality which has followed journalistic guidelines and respected copyright.

On the other hand, radio is also listened to by cable, satellite and online as radios have to be present on a multitude of platforms to maintain their audience. Indeed, with today’s technological developments and in the present times of media convergence, radio is taking up new technological forms. However, online presence does not create new listeners as they just shift from one medium to another.


The radio of tomorrow is multi-platform…


Be it broadcast, by cable, satellite or online, radio is widespread and available to all. It is everywhere, mobile, simple-to-use, interactive, cost-efficient and complimentary, as there are 4-5 broadcast receivers per household. Therefore, AER believes that for radio to face up the challenges of tomorrow, its future should remain multiplatform.

As well as analogue broadcast streams (FM/AM) and digital radio signals (DAB/DAB+/DMB) 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.

The future of radio is multi-standard and multi-platform, leaving flexibility for new business models enabled by actors such as RadioDNS, or other hybrid radio developers, protected by industry-wide radio players.

Radio needs to be on every platform: radio’s future is a mix of broadcasting and internet transmissions. It is 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.

Another essential point online relies on the findability of radios: national initiatives such as the UK “Radioplayer”, the French “Mur du Son” or the Finnish “radiot.fi” are paramount. For instance, Radioplayer, originally developed in the UK and now adopted by Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Peru, works as follows: public and commercial broadcasters are collaborating at a national level to create jointly owned portals. It is collectively owned and lists all the broadcast radio stations in each country. As well as protecting their members from gatekeepers, and growing time spent listening on-line, that investment in a single point of radio has spin-off benefits, such as enabling easier development of hybrid radio, and enabling generic apps or app look-alikes. By this are meant apps that are generic enough to be set as default on the screen of a smartphone, a smart tv or of a car.

Equally, the main path forward for radio is to combine broadcast and broadband, i.e. radio broadcast and online, through Hybrid Radio. The latter seamlessly combines a broadcaster’s existing transmissions on FM or DAB/DAB+ with bidirectional connection over the internet, right back to that broadcaster. It uses broadcast to do what it is best at, meaning a cost-effective reliable widespread delivery of live audio, then using the IP connection to add meta-data and enable transactions. In combining both technologies, it is possible to present the technology of broadcast radio in a way that is almost indistinguishable from a streaming app. It is a better experience of radio but using substantially less power and data. The lead actor on Hybrid Radio is so far RadioDNS.


The radio of tomorrow relies on advertising…


Commercially funded radios evolve in highly competitive environments, not only with public broadcasters or community radios but, first and foremost, with other privately owned and commercially funded radios. The extent of alternative sources of news and information across media has also increased fundamentally in recent years, particularly with the rapid growth of online media and other internet services.

Commercially funded radios deliver comprehensive and varied content, from editorial and talk/debate to music formats. These features are all based on a very efficient model: terrestrial broadcasting of free-to-air programmes, funded (almost) 100% by advertising.

Changing consumer behaviours or convergence will not affect the key elements of commercial radio content financing, at least in the short to medium term: it is and will remain funded (almost) 100% by advertising, on both analogue and digital means. As shown by national figures (AER Database[2]), most of the revenues still come from advertising on analogue broadcasting for commercial radio across Europe. Therefore, while the specific approaches and solutions offered to advertisers and commercial brands may evolve (and will differ between radio operators), the fundamentals of the funding model will remain broadly the same.

Advertising ban or restrictions have a negative impact on commercial radios: radio is already very tightly regulated at the national level on all aspects with different rules in each country (formats, quotas in content, advertising, a right of reply, basic identification, masthead, imprint requirements, etc.). It’s regulation, and hence the many mandatory elements a radio has to fulfil in order to be authorised to broadcast content is tailored to its audience: it needs to be decided at the same level.

Relaxation of certain rules, especially regarding terms and conditions / mandatory messages in radio advertising, would be extremely helpful. This should nevertheless not hamper the ability of these messages’ laudable political objective: inform consumers. Additional information in radio advertising is indeed bound to miss its aim: imposing information requirements in radio advertising does not appear to be an effective way to inform the consumer. Empirical data show that warning messages are considered as “oppressive”, and lead listeners to “tune out” metaphorically, if not literally, in the worst-case scenario, as shown first by the 2004 Navigator study, confirmed by more recent researches in the UK[3] and in France[4].

Information requirements in advertising are particularly burdensome for radios – radio is a non-visual linear medium, which concretely means that, when detailed messages are to be communicated in an advertisement, these are to be broadcast in an added time-space to the latter. This increases the amount of time, hence the price, of the considered commercial message. Also, information is perceived to be much more useful at a later stage than when advertising: through websites, in information brochures or at the point of sale – information is more useful when the decision is taken to perform the purchase.

In the end, as exemplified by the European Advertising Standards Alliance[5] and the national Advertising self-regulatory bodies as well as by the online behavioural advertising regulatory environment[6], self-regulation can usefully address consumers concerns and needs online regarding advertising, and faster than regulation.



To conclude, radio requires a specific approach reflecting its functioning in the context of legislation prepared for other media, platforms, or completely different fields. It is hoped that these specificities go on being recognised and accordingly reflected in legislation, as well as radio is given a fair chance to exit and evolve taking into account market realities.


Photo credits: Radiocentre

[1] Eurobarometer – latest EB90, November 2018

[2] Available for AER Members upon request

[3] Since 2013, Radiocentre in the UK has invested in a detailed programme of research to further understand and quantify the effect of these lengthy terms and conditions on consumer perceptions and recall. This includes the commissioning of three online panel surveys between 2013 and 2016 of 3’200 commercial radio listeners in total, measuring consumer perceptions and testing recall of important figures from the standard information required by the Consumer Credit Directive. The programme also included a partnership with Lancaster University in 2016/17 which explored the extent to which listeners absorb financial information in radio ads when engaged in other tasks and also measure how lengthy terms and conditions affect not only recall but also brand trust. See here: http://www.radiocentre.org/about/terms-and-conditions/

[4] See here a summary in French: http://ecouter.lesindesradios.fr/divers/mentions.pdf

and English: http://ecouter.lesindesradios.fr/divers/terms.pdf

[5] http://www.easa-alliance.org/

[6] http://www.edaa.eu/

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