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Media and socio-cultural communication
Ireland’s experience of the transition from public service broadcasting to public service media has gathered pace within the last year with new legislative arrangements for media regulation, the awarding of digital terrestrial television licences and renewed attempts to introduce digital radio broadcasting on the DAB platform. The national public broadcaster, RTE, has played a central role in these developments as it attempts to manage a range of technology platforms and to provide media services for an increasingly diverse and complex market. This paper addresses the case of digital radio in Ireland and the prospects for a successful launch of DAB in 2008. Following previously stalled efforts, digital radio in Ireland is clearly entering a new phase of development: a trial digital service has been established as of 2007, a new licensing policy is in development, and a partnership of public and private broadcasters, Digital Radio Ireland, has brought together RTE and a range of leading commercial, independent radio stations, to raise the public profile of digital radio as a new service. Public awareness campaigns, buoyant sales in the consumer electronics retail sector for digital receivers, and the shutdown of the national Medium Wave broadcasting service have all served to call attention to the fact that radio is changing. But is Ireland’s digital radio initiative a case of ‘too little, too late’? The paper argues that the context for launching digital radio is very different to that of earlier attempted deployments. A diversity of digital services is now well established and is likely to have a strong bearing on adoption of DAB technologies. Unlike the early 1990s when DAB as a platform was first developed, public expectations for new digital audio services have already been extensively formed through the use of interactive websites, online radio and personalised audio services, podcasting, file sharing and portable mp3 player use. Consequently, the paper will ask if public service media provision for digital radio broadcasting can meet audience expectations and if strategies can be evolved to avoid some of the pitfalls of previous failed implementations.
O’Neill, B. ‘Developing digital radio for Ireland: emerging approaches and strategies’, presented at RIPE@2008, (Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise), Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, October 8-10, 2008