Sunday, 5 December 2010
Interview with Grant Goddard
Grant Goddard is one of the best expert of radio and he runs a very interesting blog about radio and its evolution in UK and abroad.
I asked him an interview.
1) When and where were you born?
I was born in the 1950’s in Surrey, just west of London.
2) What is your first memory of listening to the radio?
In the 1960s, I remember 'Big L' (Radio London) booming out from the car
radio. The music was exciting, the DJs were entertaining - it was a great
introduction to radio. I also remember listening to Radio Luxembourg in the
evenings, playing songs that other stations did not. Then there was the
excitement of BBC Radio 1 launching in 1967 to fill the gap after Big L had
closed down. It was a time of great changes in radio, which made the
experience inspiring for young people.
3) When did you start listening to the radio and why did you like it?
I listened to radio for the music. I had always loved pop music and radio
provided the opportunity to hear all sorts of new artists, new songs and new
styles of music. We had a tape recorder that we used to record our favourite
songs from the radio so that we could listen to them whenever we wanted.
Radio provided my music education, for which I am eternally grateful.
4) When did you start working for a radio?
My first involvement in radio was in the early 1970s, when I worked for AM weekend pirate radio stations in London, including Radio Concord, London Weekend Radio, Skyport Radio and Swinging Radio England. I initially answered the listener phone line and then presented programmes, on my own and also with my friend Jerry.
5) In your book "DAB digital radio -licensed to fail" you seem very
skeptic about the success of digital radio in UK; do you think there's
no hope for digital radio in the foreseeable future?
I believe that digital radio has a great future. The problem in the UK is
specifically about the DAB platform and the way it has been implemented. The
technological developments that have enabled radio to be distributed all
around the world, and to a dazzling range of connected devices, are
absolutely incredible for the radio medium. Unfortunately, DAB had been
marketed in the UK as a means for existing radio broadcasters to maintain
their control over the radio market. Increasingly, consumers have been
disinterested in DAB radio, as demonstrated by declining sales of DAB
receiver hardware in the UK. The outcome is that DAB will not succeed as a
replacement for existing FM/AM broadcast radio. But digital radio as a whole
has a positive future.
6) What is your opinion about DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale)? and DRM+?
It seems that DRM will be useful for longer range radio broadcasts, though we are in a period when shortwave is being used less and less by international broadcasters. Those places that are most reliant on shortwave (Africa, Latin America, etc) are likely to have the slowest take-up of new, relatively expensive hardware technologies such as DRM. As a result, it is hard to see DRM as anything more than a supplemental technology to analogue reception. Just because a technology is inherently better does not guarantee its take-up (viz Betamax and digital compact cassettes).
7) As a paradox, could we say that in Italy digital radio has more chances for success than in the UK because Italy has basically skipped DAB and it's going straight to DAB+?
The biggest challenge for implementing DAB is the economics of radio, rather than whether the codec is DAB or DAB+. There are at least three economic issues. Firstly, consumers update their radio hardware infrequently, requiring simulcasting on analogue and DAB for at least 10, maybe 20, years, which at least doubles a station’s transmission costs for a long period. Secondly, advertisers use radio because it is a ‘mass’ medium, so they have no interest in using DAB until it reaches millions of people, which results in no revenues from the DAB platform for the first 10, maybe 20, years. Thirdly, consumers already have a large choice (compared to TV) of analogue stations on AM/FM, so it is hard to find ‘new’ radio content that will motivate them sufficiently in large numbers to buy new DAB radios. These economic issues make it unlikely that DAB+ will have any more success than DAB.
8) Are you sure that there is future for "radio on radio spectrum" or
is it just a waste of time because internet-radio will rule above any
other alternative systems?
I think that broadcast radio (FM/AM) still has a future because reception is
so robust, as a result of 50+ years of investment in the extensive
transmission systems. I can stand in the middle of nowhere and still pick up
broadcast radio. Internet radio cannot match that level of universality at
present. Eventually, the IP platform may be able to compete head-on with the
broadcast platform, but we are not at that stage yet. For the next few
years, internet-delivered radio is a very useful supplemental platform to
broadcast radio that offers the consumer a much wider choice of content and
the ability to timeshift programmes. It is important to remember that, when
local or national emergencies happen, it is broadcast radio that citizens
turn to for information, because electrical power cuts bring IP networks
(and even television) to a standstill. A single transmitter on long wave can
cover almost the whole UK - that is a difficult distribution system to beat!
9) Since your youth, you've beeing seeing huge change of radio-set (a topic that it's rarely discussed), from analog radio-set to digital display (including RDS) of today sets. What's your opinion about it? Is there any evolution that you'd like to see in the near future?
At the end of the day, it is content that drives people to listen to the radio. All the technology does is make it possible to deliver that content to them. Some of the most popular radio stations have had less than perfect reception experiences – Radio Luxembourg on AM, Laser 558 on AM, Atlantic 252 on long wave, and all the FM pirate stations – but consumers will sacrifice quality for content any day. This is why people are happy to listen to low-fi mp3’s on their mobile phones. I think this phenomenon will remain. The biggest difference between then and now is the huge choice of stations offered by IP. When I grew up, there were never more than a handful of radio stations to choose from. Now, there are thousands. The challenge now is to enable consumers to find something of interest to them and to help them navigate their way around the global menu of radio available to them. We need a Google for radio that will deliver search results to a listener, however arcane their request for a radio station to match their tastes.