Sally-Ann Wilson, Secretary-General of the CBA, was a keynote speaker at The Radio Conference: A transnational forum, at the University of Bedfordshire, running from 9 to 12 July 2013.

She argued that radio is losing out to digital media not in terms of users but in investment and attention, and discussed why it is such a key issue:

Is radio really ‘in tune’ with the digital world or does it remain rooted in an analogue past? What is the gap between the perception and the reality? The CBA is the largest global association of Public Service Broadcasters and the organisation provides an ideal vantage point for a global overview of the current status of radio in the digital media landscape. In a world that seems increasingly dominated by visual imagery, radio often lacks visibility, yet it’s still radio that has the reach.

“All too frequently radio is perceived as ‘old’ media. At the CBA we’ve noticed that as the global economic recession continues to bite, digital transition plans — and budgets — focus on TV, while radio remains underfunded. As spectrum is reallocated is radio really getting a fair allocation as others feel the benefit of the digital dividend? And, as philanthropic funders trip over one another in the race to breach the digital divide, they repeatedly invest in new media projects, ignoring the flexibility and universality of radio.

“Yet the reality is that radio doesn’t rely on a stable and effective electricity grid. It can work on and with the web but it’s also accessible to those without internet connection. It’s frequently accessed via mobile, can tackle any issue or genre and doesn’t depend on literacy. It’s readily interactive and flexible enough to allow multi-tasking while listening. Radio feeds the imagination and nurtures creativity, but evidence shows that it’s during times of crisis, emergency and disaster that everyone becomes aware of the real power of radio.

It may well be that radio is so ubiquitous it’s no longer newsworthy. So how do we re-position radio and close the gap between perception and reality?”