Digital radio making ripples, not waves

Digital radio making ripples, not waves

With digital radio broadcasts in full swing in Sydney and Melbourne, now is a good time for broadcasters, retailers and advertisers to become conversant in the technology, according to the Australian representative of UK-based digital radio vendor Pure Digital, Graeme Redman.

"We have a commitment from the government that Australia is going to transfer over to digital radio. But we are still waiting on the ratification of the compression standard, so it will be 12 to 18 months before we start to see broad adoption," he said. "Convergent resellers that have a background in digital entertainment systems should be starting to gear up for the sales, because initially most of them will be focused on the specialist channel."

With more than 1000 radios already circulated as part of the trial broadcasts, units are also commercially available through high-end consumer electronics retailers such as Sydney's Len Wallis Audio, as well as the Sony website. Although publishing and market manager for Len Wallis Audio, Geoff Forgie, said there has been little interest in the units.

"At the moment there are a lot of commercial stations broadcasting digital signals, but until we get stations like the ABC's 702 and NewsRadio there won't be a big response from our customer base," he said. "Interest will build up throughout 2006, and there are lots of benefits to consumers once the broadcasts begin, but at the moment we're not seeing many sales."

Part of the problem at this stage, according to Redman, is that early adopters may get stuck with redundant systems once the new compression standard is ratified.

"The early adopters of digital radio technology need to be happy enough to buy a unit which might not work in 12 or 18 months time," he said. "The technology is already widely available and very popular in the UK. There aren't any concerns really apart from the uncertainty about the compression standard."

CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, the industry body overseeing the roll out of digital radio broadcasts, Joan Warner, thinks Australians will respond quickly to digital radio technology.

She said value-added content, and features such as pause and rewind, would drive consumer interest and uptake.

"It is too early for a mass consumer retail push as a new audio coding technology is in development and may mean different receivers could be needed to pick up digital radio broadcasts," Warner said. "Once this has been finalised, possibly in the next 12 months, we will be working closely with receiver manufacturers as well as planning for a massive consumer and retailer education campaign."

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