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Radio seeks new route forward

News, 09 July 2015

LONDON: RadioCentre, the industry body for commercial radio, has called for changes to advertising regulation and an end to the fast-talking disclaimers that annoy listeners and are ineffective as a form of consumer protection.

In a new report, Radio. Connecting Past and Future, it highlighted the fact that the UK's commercial radio sector has a stable audience and offers a very respectable return on investment.

The number of people listening to broadcast radio is as high as ever – some 48m adults tune in every week and 63% are commercial radio listeners, a proportion that has remained largely the same over the past five years.

And this channel also represents a "critical route" to customers for local businesses and SMEs. Overall, radio returns £7.70 for every £1 invested by advertisers, second only to TV, the study added.

But the analysis warned that the sector faces intense pressure from changing media consumption habits and the shift of advertising spend into digital, which the regulatory environment has failed to recognise.

The report does not limit itself to advertising, however, and addresses radio's wider role in society. And it is not just the commercial survival of radio stations as businesses that is at issue.

"As ad budgets swing away from traditional content creators towards digital aggregators, this will cause tension in the quality content supply chain (this applies across all traditional media), undermining investment in content and media plurality," the report said.

Launching the report, RadioCentre's chief executive Siobhan Kenny called it "a "progressive vision for a thriving and successful commercial radio sector.

"There are some key commitments to carry on providing listeners with what they want, particularly local news and information," she said. "In return, we ask for a legislative review, looking at the sometimes outdated regulation governing the sector."

The role of the BBC – boasting 56 local stations and a 54% audience share – and streaming services such as Spotify present particular challenges to the sector in the competition for "ear-time".

In the case of the former, the report suggested the BBC could develop more distinctive services – for example, there is a 60% duplication rate in the music played on commercial radio and the two national BBC radio stations playing popular music – to promote diversity and support the future growth of radio.

Data sourced from RadioCentre, MediaTel; additional content by Warc staff