Learning about Radio in Asia

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

I’ve had an interesting few days in Qingdao, China – taking part in a special radio day before the Asian Media Summit.

Asia is an interesting radio market, with some countries having very advanced commercial-sounding stations, and others where controls on private broadcasters have only relatively recently begun to be lifted.

Technology is different in China, and a little challenging – China has a so-called “great firewall”, where many services are either very slow or not available at all. Much of Google is unreachable – relatively difficult to overcome on the hotel wifi, though after a few days thinking about it, I’ve managed to gain access again and helped my groaning email box.

There’s also lots to learn here, too – a surprising amount of English-language radio stations, doing lots of interesting things.

Voice of Vietnam, the government broadcaster, added an English-speaking station eighteen months ago, which is aimed at both English ex-pats and also people who are learning English. It’s the only English-speaking station in the country, and benefits, I think, from being relatively low on management’s radar, meaning that they can innovate and try new things.

Steve Ahern from AsiaRadioToday.com and radioinfo.com.au has covered her talk, but I particularly liked the use of asking listeners to come in and play some of their favourite music – it’s a bit more than a simple request show. While the listener is there, the presenters record a little promotional video that goes onto social media – a nice way for that listener to then promote the station further.

We also heard a speaker from Singapore’s MediaCorp, the country’s biggest commercial broadcaster, describe their move to a new, purpose-built broadcast centre in the city (complete with brand new equipment and new playout systems). That can’t have been an easy thing to achieve, but they appeared to do it in a very public way.

I often comment that the main thing that holds radio back is the past. Radio is nimble and quick to adapt, if only we’d forget about “the way we used to do things”. Yet many Asian countries don’t have a radio heritage in the same way that Western countries do, so the past is less of a problem for them.

As I type this, with a view of the gleaming skyscrapers of Qingdao – there’s an Apple store just down there – it’s very clear that many countries in this part of the world embrace change with a speed that is almost uncomfortable in places like Europe.

Perhaps we should learn to love change and embrace it, as many Asian countries have. Particularly when it comes to radio.

 

About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK’s ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs media.info the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio’s future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.

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