In the category of what-a-great-idea comes this: in England, the BBC (non-commercial radio) and commercial radio will join forces to set up the Radio Council, to focus specifically on radio’s digital future. Representatives will include the BBC as well as England’s three largest radio groups – Global Radio, GMG Radio, and Bauer Media, along with RadioCentre, a trade group that will represent all other commercial radio entities.
Reportedly, the new group will work to establish are a shared online live radio player, portal and a range of exclusive content to help boost struggling digital audio broadcasting (DAB) stations. The group will focus on digital radio in the forms of DAB and online, and will focus on devices, platforms and marketing to bring radio closer to a digital switchover.
There are lots of reasons behind this move that basically boil down to a growing concern that if radio does not move more quickly to digital platforms it will be left behind in the digital age. Andrew Harrison, the RadioCentre chief executive, said “This exciting new initiative kick-starts our collective approach to ensuring radio is at the heart of Digital Britain.”
A unified group focused on supporting digital development for radio. With the support of traditional broadcast groups and trade associations, it sure sounds like they mean business…
The Internet Media Device Association (IMDA) has released a standard for standalone internet radio devices which will help to align competing technologies, hasten development of more devices, create clear rules for broadcasters and benefit consumers. For manufacturers of internet radios, the certification standard aims to reduce time to market and marketing risk by removing the prospect of rival technology wars. At the same time, online broadcasters adhering to IMDA Profile 1 will be able to reach target audiences using fewer audio codecs, cutting associated costs.
Mark Hopgood, an IMDA steering committee member and Frontier Silicon’s director of marketing, commented, “audio data streaming over the internet is faced with a unique set of challenges, from codec design through to play list format, countless choices need to be made. If a universal standard isn’t specified now, when the market for internet radios is in its relative infancy, manufacturers risk entering a technology war, like the Betamax/VHS war of the ‘80s. If this happens, many early adopters will end up with obsolete products – this needs to be avoided at all costs. Technology wars create market uncertainty, which hurts manufacturers, hurts broadcasters and, most importantly, hurts the consumers.”
The newly released IMDA baseline standard stipulates devices must decode both WMA and MP3 codecs; use HTTP streaming with 301 and 302 redirection; accept play list formats M3U, ASX, PLS with new line separation for URLs in plain text; and receive stereo streams via two channels or by downloading a mix of both.
The idea is to offer certification of devices as quickly as possible – Harry Johnson, chairman of the IMDA’s steering committee and president of vTuner, concluded, “internet radios bearing the IMDA certified logo will be in the shops before Christmas.”
The IMDA was launched in 2009 to develop and promote a set of open, interoperable standards and device profiles for internet connected media devices. Its steering committee comprises many of the world’s leading players in streaming media: Awox, BBC, Deutsche Welle, the European Broadcasting Union, Frontier Silicon, Global Radio, Pure, Reciva, SWR and vTuner.