von Brista Wang
Invented in the late 19th century, radio waves have been transmitted into various programs and broadcasted all over the world. Over a century, people have been learning about news, enjoying music, and sharing thoughts and feelings through radio. However, with the rapid development of technology, television, internet, Smartphone and other advanced communication tools entered our daily lives. Tempted by all of these visual experiences, how many people will still sit down, turn on the radio and listen to the old stories? And how many companies will use radio as one of the main platforms to reach their customers? Will the radio waves fade away from our lives? At the 14th Sino-German Communication Forum in Beijing in December 2013, co-organized by Storymaker, the German Centre Beijing and the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, specialists from China and Germany gave a brief introduction about the radio histories in both countries and discussed the latest development of radio broadcasting.
Ms. Ruth Kirchner, a Beijing correspondent of ARD German Radio, gave a brief introduction about the development of radio in Germany first. Founded in West Germany in 1945, the German Broadcasting System has developed as a democratic, independent and non-commercial system, expressing information freely. With the public broadcaster, ARD and its many regional stations, which are financed by monthly fee paid by every household, and hundreds of private broadcasters, radio still plays a significant role in every German’s life. According to a survey made by agma, a German media analysis agency, almost 80% of all Germans older than 10 years turn on the radio every day and leave it on for more than 3 hours. The most loyal listeners are ranging from 30 to 59 years old, and the employed people spend more hours on listening to the radios than unemployed ones.
From my own experience, the Chinese radio industry has passed its “golden years”. As to most people who were born from the 70s to the 90s, listening to radio is a unique memory of childhood. During the first decade of Chinese economic reforms, without digital entertainment, the very first thing for most Chinese in the morning was turning on the radio, and learning about the latest news. Radios were definitely the most popular electronic equipment at that time. However, as the generation Y is growing up, radio seems fading away from our lives, while only taxi drivers and elder people are still the loyal listeners to the radio stations. But, from the perspective of Mr. Davis Lee, a host, journalist and reporter from Beijing Radio Corporation (Beijing People’s Broadcasting Station), Chinese Radio industry still has a bright future.
Unlike German radio station, there are no private broadcasters in China. All broadcasters are state-owned, supervised and controlled by The State Administration of Radio Film and Television, but 99% of them are financial independent and have got very limited financial support from the government. This situation forces Radio stations to find commercial ways to get financial support, and they are therefore extremely sensitive to the market performance. “Who are the target listeners? What kind of companies could be attracted and make investments?” are the most popular questions a Chinese radio station would ask. In China, the national radio station, China National Radio (CNR) and China Radio International (CRI) have 10 % market share, province-based stations have 25%-35% and city-based ones have over 50%. Beijing People’s Broadcasting Station owns about 70% local market share in Beijing and reports content that is easy to digest and closer to daily life, such as traffic, restaurant recommendations, etc, which also provide good opportunity for companies from certain industries, such as automotive, travel, hospitality, etc, to promote their brands and products, and reach their potential customers.
While the traditional signal radio which could only cover a certain city or an area, digital radio can be listened to from all over the world via streams in the internet. Beijing Radio Corporation has its own official website and publishes news and records timely. Although fewer people listen to the radio in a traditional way, online radio has attracted more listeners because it can meet various needs, for example, providing different programs for different listener groups during the same period of time. In this context, Ms. Kirchner mentioned a challenge about the Internet broadcasting is that the internet news or what people think it is news is moving faster. As a journalist, they get increasing pressure to react faster, sort out the news spreading online, and report news with reliable sources. Social platforms, like weibo, are not enough to be a reference.
No one can stop the development of technology, and advanced electronic equipment is changing people’s lives more or less. But as a trustful communication tool, radio still stands up to the internet, Smartphone, tablets and TV, while both companies and radio stations would like to build cooperation with each other. Without permanent financial supports, Chinese radio stations and private German stations face the challenge to get enough funds for their ideas and efforts. However, just as German and other foreign correspondents, Chinese journalists and reporters are working hard on creating and broadcasting more interesting and reliable news to the public who are listening at the other end of Radios.