Radio needs to up its game to meet the challenge of streaming and on-demand services, according to a radio debate held at the Leeds College of Music.
The panel discussion, hosted by former BBC Director of Radio, Helen Boaden at the new Seque event, discussed the opportunities and threats faced by the radio and audio sector with Siobhan Kenny, CEO of commercial radio trade body, Radiocentre, Phil Riley, former CEO Chrysalis Radio/Orion Media and Chair of Judges for the ARIAS and Neelay Patel who leads on the future development and innovation of TV, radio and music at the BBC.
Phil Riley said: “Creatively, the UK radio industry is as a whole, the best in the world. The commercial sector has had to compete with a well-funded public sector – not for money, but for audience. This has forced the commercial sector to raise its game and that combination has served listeners well in this country.
“But everything is changing – why would you want to listen to a niche music station when you can create your own Spotify playlist? Broadcasters have to be much better at what they do over the next 10 years, otherwise, they will see an erosion of their audience to streaming and on demand services.”
New platforms, including smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo, are changing the way people access audio services. Radiocentre’s Siobhan Kenny said: “We have some research on the way people are using the Amazon Echo in the home and interestingly, some 70% are using it to listen to radio and discovering new stations. So, there are opportunities as well as threats – let’s not forget, we still have 90% of the population listening to radio.”
Neelay Patel added: “Streaming services remain the big threat – we need to look at how targeted can we make our content – which will massively help the commercial sector. But the really interesting development is around discovery – how are you going to find things that you wouldn’t normally find – who delivers the music you asked for?”
Siobhan Kenny added: “Currently, Amazon Echo plays everything via Tunein – unless you ask for Radioplayer. Radioplayer is a great example of the radio industry pulling together to create scale, with deals in place with tech companies like Sonos and Amazon – those big tech companies don’t want to deal with a segmented radio industry so Radioplayer is creating those deals on our behalf.”
The panel discussion also touched on young people in radio and how the industry can continue to attract talent when wages often don’t compare to those in other creative industries.
Phil Riley said: “If you can’t pay salaries that match similar sectors, you’re not going to employ anyone. Commercial radio will offer similar salaries to the BBC – if you’ve got a job that needs doing – you’ll have to pay them a decent wage to get the job done, whatever that rate is. But there are times you have to except that if you’re doing a job you love, you might have to make sacrifices in what you earn.”
Siobhan Kenny added: “We need to thing about the mix of our workforce – how do we get a more diverse workforce? We are working with Ofcom to ensure we get the most diverse group of people through the door and I think it’s very important we do something about
Launched by The Radio Academy and supported by LeedsBID (Business Improvement District), the national radio and audio event, Segue [Seg-way] takes place in Leeds over two days on October 18th and 19th, and brings together big industry names, networking events and masterclasses, as well as a ‘Radio & Audio Fair’.
The event will culminate in the grand finale of the ARIAS (Audio & Radio Industry Awards) held this evening (19th October) at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.