Hayley Millar of BBC Radio Scotland's morning news programme interviewed Daniel Bruce, Internews' Chief Executive in Europe, about his views on the resiliency of radio in an age of digital and social media.
"I think one of the powerful things about radio is it's connectedness to its audience and the ability for each and every listener to feel like they're part of that conversation," says Bruce.
Listen to Bruce's interview on the BBC Radio Scotland website - his section starts at 16:50.
Hayley Millar: One of the BBC's highest-paid Stars, Chris Evans is to leave Radio 2 for what has been described as groundbreaking opportunities at Virgin Radio. His BBC show netted a weekly audience of around nine million listeners, but his move to Virgin is, according to its owners, part of a radio revolution. But what exactly is the future of radio? Many media soothsayers have speculated about the demise of this platform as new online news takes center stage.
Well, Daniel Bruce is the chief executive of Internews, an international charity that supports the growth of diverse and professional media worldwide. He’s also written about the future of radio and he joins us from our London Studio. Good morning.
Daniel Bruce: Good morning.
Hayley Millar: So Daniel, what's your view of radio and what its future is?
Daniel Bruce: Yeah, it’s interesting. I've worked in or around this industry for twenty-odd years now, and I remember when I first got into the business and people were saying, the soothsayers if you like, were saying to me at the time, you know, why are you doing that? Radio’s dying. Radio’s gonna go away within 10 years and here we are 20 years later and I don't think the medium has ever been quite so strong, certainly not as it is in the United Kingdom.
I think it's really important to separate the technological revolution of how radio is delivered and how people listen to radio from its importance in society and its contribution to the national conversation, both at a hyper-local level through grassroots community media and local and regional licenses through to national radio such as Radio 2 and Radio Scotland, of course.
Hayley Millar: But do you think the way that audiences are consuming radio has been changing?
Daniel Bruce: Inevitably yes as with television and, you know, online video streaming and, you know, the Netflixes of this world and so on and so forth. There is perhaps less appointment to listen and people tuning in a particular time to listen to live programs and more downloads and catch-up and so on and so forth.
And, of course, the transition to DAB and digital. There’s more people listening on DAB and digital than FM or other terrestrial transmission frequencies. So, you know, inevitably people's consumption habits follow those technological trends and it's important that the sector keeps pace with them.
I think what's interesting about Chris Evans move is that, you know, for whatever his personal reasons behind it, presumably at this stage it's not about audience figures. He's leaving behind his nine million listeners of radio to, again, acquire 400,000 at Virgin on a digital only national service. But I think that is a bit of a sort of bellwether moment for where the industry sees digital going.
Hayley Millar: Well, yes, I suppose that that would be seen as quite a Philip for the digital side of things. But interesting that that part of the background in with Chris Evans was the BBC's policy now to share stars’ salaries. Do you think that that is putting people off and that people are preferring to like, you know, names like Chris Evans will see the commercial sector as more attractive for that reason?
Daniel Bruce: I can only offer you a conjecture on that point really. I mean hypothetically, possibly as his salary is out there and it’s published and nobody quite knows if he's going to be paid more or less for going into that region and what his personal reasons for that are.
I don't see that as a significant factor and I also think that you know, when you consider the fact that it's a tiny minority of radio broadcasters who are earning those sort of salaries and fees. I think it's probably a fairly small consideration in the overall picture.
Hayley Millar: So does radio still offer something in your mind that we still don't get from the plethora of media, including social media out there.
Daniel Bruce: Absolutely. I mean, I think that what we are doing now - having a conversation in real time; people answering questions; politicians others in public life being accountable to their audiences, accountable to journalists and watchdogs of democracy and civil society. Something that happens with a degree of incision that I think only radio can offer. Obviously television does do it. But I think one of the powerful things about radio is it's connectedness to its audience as well and the ability for each and every listener to feel like they're part of that conversation.
Now that's not to underestimate the power of viral social media moments and what they have in spreading a message or a particular theme, but I don't think those two things have to be mutually exclusive. I don't think social media’s growth means the radio is dying.
Hayley Millar: Well, thank you very much for your views this morning and good to talk to you. Daniel Bruce, chief executive of Internews.