Antonio Arcidiacono, CTO and CIO for the European Broadcasting Union, is focused on launching new ideas and initiatives for EBU members to ensure public service broadcasters are a benchmark for quality in the audiovisual market. He has extensive experience conceiving, developing and taking new products and services to market. He shares with us his vision of a transitioning industry and the direction in which he sees it moving.
RedTech: How is radio broadcast strategy evolving as the technology landscape changes?
Antonio Arcidiacono: This is not just about broadcast. Our members produce news and information that is consistently rated as the most trusted across all media by the overwhelming majority of European citizens. We help to ensure that their content can get to listeners wherever they are and however they want to listen.
Of course, we see that the profile of listening is changing. Our studies, like others, show that younger listeners are consuming more and more on-demand (including podcast) content, and older listeners are following. But broadcast has been and remains a vital pillar with direct access to large audiences. Neither responsibility can be ignored.
Many of our members are adopting a digital-first strategy where they produce content in a form that can be consumed equally well through a digital on-demand platform and via broadcast “as live.”
The goal is to focus on maximizing the return on content investment and ensuring it has reach and lifetime beyond a single technology platform and point in time.
The role of the CTO in radio generally mirrors the evolution that has happened within the departments of radio broadcasters — that technology and digital are coming together.
RedTech: How has the role of a CTO working in radio changed from five years ago?
Arcidiacono: The role of the CTO in radio generally mirrors the evolution that has happened within the departments of radio broadcasters — that content production, traditional distribution and new digital platforms are coming together. A CTO now constantly rethinks workflows and maintains a multitude of relationships with third-party platforms or even car manufacturers. With many more ways to reach audiences, their focus is wider than single broadcast platforms.
RedTech: How do you see the future of in-car radio listening?
Arcidiacono: Radio remains crucial for car drivers, with recent surveys confirming that they expect radio to be there. European legislation that the EBU helped to support has ensured that DAB receivers are available in the overwhelming majority of new cars sold in major European markets. However, the in-car experience is rapidly changing, and there are far more media options for drivers.
The good news for radio is that it is still in a strong position and perfectly able to adapt. Drivers still want radio content, and this can easily be made available within new car infotainment systems regardless of the interface. Car manufacturers are changing the in-car experience, but they look to others for content; radio broadcasters are experts in this domain.
RedTech: There has been a lot of news this year about AI; what role do you see it playing in radio operations now and in the future?
Arcidiacono: Our members have a long history of innovating and exploiting AI, so the hype around ChatGPT and others is nothing new but is providing an acceleration in the way the public expects this technology to support innovation combining creativity with technology. For example, the immensely popular station “Couleur 3,” from our Swiss member RTS, recently ran an entire day with content generated by AI. Music, jingles and voices were completely synthetically produced — all overseen by humans; only the news was untouched!
So, we know what is possible, but it’s important not to forget what audiences actually want. Radio is a unique medium that can help people feel part of a community; radio hosts facilitate this. While things like AI and personalization can provide tools that can help, we shouldn’t lose sight of the value of a human connection.
RedTech: What other new technology will positively or negatively impact radio broadcasting and its audiences?
Arcidiacono: The recent sequence of natural and political crises has reestablished resilience as a strong technology and business driver. From production to distribution, more media companies are keeping an eye on their resilience and business continuity strategies, and that translates into technology choices.
Broadcast and broadband are complementary for distribution in terms of resilience, coverage and guaranteed quality of service. That’s one of the reasons why EBU is also looking into technologies that can combine the benefits of satellite, mobile and broadband, to provide better coverage and lower the strain on weak or congested data connections. One recent project is called 5G-Emerge, which is a collaboration with ESA [European Space Agency] and several partners.
While things like AI and personalization can provide tools that can help, we shouldn’t lose sight of the value of a human connection.
RedTech: What do you see in EBU member organizations that is particularly encouraging for radio’s future?
Arcidiacono: What is encouraging is that radio services are front and center in the minds of our members. They produce some of the best-known and most-consumed services across Europe, with popularity across all audience segments. Audio is a great way of engaging younger audiences.
RedTech: Software is at the heart of new technologies supporting the evolution of radio and audio businesses. Is there an area where you believe software engineers should spend more time, money and focus to support future innovation in radio and audio?
Arcidiacono: The lines between software engineers, innovators and content producers are very close to disappearing. Nowadays, it is necessary to be across all these disciplines, or at least to work closely as cross-discipline teams. The future of innovation in radio and audio is around matching a technology to an audience and not looking at technology in isolation. In the EBU, we work to create pan-European teams for innovation, allowing ideas and projects to cross-pollinate and work together on shared initiatives.
RedTech: How do you see 5G impacting the radio and audio broadcasting sectors?
Arcidiacono: The headline here is that 5G can help to improve quality of service for radio listeners, especially in situations where it’s currently patchy. That’s good news for the radio sector. Improvements can happen in a number of ways, in which 5G could either be complementary or the main channel. At an infrastructure level it can happen through a smoother integration of multicast and unicast, and a federation of different physical infrastructure types. There’s a lot of mature work in this direction, such as by the 5G-MAG consortium. In other situations, it can be features such as the network better preparing devices that are about to travel through rough patches. None of these things are going to arrive automatically though. It requires sustained engagement with stakeholders. That’s what the EBU and its members are doing.