One plan would enable listeners to program
By Heidi Dawley
Jul 13, 2006
Imagine this: A radio listener goes to a web site and fiddles for a few minutes. Then, throughout the day, our listener is treated to a range of musical selections of his or her choosing, rock, talk, classical and hip hop, with a bit blues thrown in, all accompanied by ads.
It’s sort of like an iPod, in that it’s on-demand, and a bit like Sirius and XM, in that it offers a range of selections. But it's commercial radio, or would be with the right sort of support.
The germ of this idea, but without the ads, is being developed by the BBC. The plan is to allow each individual listener to create his own personalized radio service. If the idea comes to fruition, peer-to-peer technology could be used to provide millions of individual radio services. Each service would be designed by the listener from the wealth of existing BBC radio programming. The proposal was first put forth last week by Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, in a speech at the Radio Festival in Cambridge.
“We want to liberate our content,” is the way Simon Nelson puts it. Nelson is controller of radio and music interactive for the BBC. “We want to take our programming and make it as accessible and convenient for those license fee payers to listen to as possible. Allowing them to have as highly personalized a service as possible is key.”
The idea is part of a bigger project, called MyBBCRadio, whose ambitious aim is to transform radio. Says Nelson: “We are reinventing the medium of radio, which a few years ago people thought was dying.”
The advent of MyBBCRadio comes at a time of increased on-demand listening. In fact, the BBC reports that in March people accessed some 20 million hours of BBC content online. And in May, listeners downloaded roughly 4.5 million BBC podcasts.
While the details of the BBC’s proposition for personalized radio are sketchy, in essence it would be an upgrade of the BBC radio player, which allows downloads of BBC radio content for seven days after it airs.
Analysts see on-demand as key to radio’s future.
“Podcasting is an early form of on-demand radio,” says Graham Lovelace of Lovelace Consulting, a convergent media specialist.
“Its success and the success of the radio player suggest the future consumption of much of radio could follow the same sort of experiences that homes with personal video recorders are experiencing. Most of viewing of TV in those homes takes place on demand.”
The new proposition is that listeners could peruse the totality of BBC radio programming across its seven national stations and its host of regional stations. The listener could then choose from these available programs to create their own schedule.
The listener wouldn’t be able to personalize the individual music tracks played, but instead they could choose which programs--or parts of programs--are played.
For instance, a listener could schedule to listen to an hour-long show from one BBC radio station, followed by a half-hour morning news program from another station, and then a further show from a third BBC station.
The theory would be that they could listen to their individual radio service via internet, digital radio, mobile phone, MP3 players or digital radio broadcast over the TV. Game consoles could also be a possibility.
MyBBCRadio’s mandate also calls for deploying technologies to help people find programs and content that they might like and also adding a visual component--text or video--to radio broadcasts.
Heidi Dawley is a staff writer for Media Life.