Media Perspective: Less talk and more action needed from major radio groups

What with Mexican swine fever set to sweep the world and the climate change-obsessive Prince Charles predicting the dawn of a "new Dark Age", I tackled the Monday morning Sugar Puffs in a more than usually downbeat mood.

Not a state of mind that was likely to improve when faced with the latest set of predictions for the media industry.

This week it was again the radio sector's turn to issue fatalistic proclamations of almost Old Testament proportions. The BBC's radio chief, Tim Davie, outlined a future for radio listening where it is "likely, not possible, that we will be managing decline".

But hang on. A solution is on the horizon, one that could part the clouds engulfing the radio industry more effectively than that young lad hurling a stone in the ITV commercial. Because Davie and his BBC colleagues are hoping, as ITV is, for something of a rebirth in fortunes and they have joined forces with commercial radio to launch a new partnership, called The Radio Council.

The new initiative will focus on cross-sector projects designed to help radio in the digital age. These will include the development of an online radio player, a common electronic programme guide to work across all platforms and the development of digital-only content for listeners.

A staggering alliance, you might think, given the antipathy that has existed between commercial radio and the BBC in recent times. But needs must and commercial radio may view going to hell in a handcart with Davie for company as a better prospect than the alternative: a long spell in limbo before dying out completely.

The alliance is a welcome one and will help commercial radio progress in a changing world. Yet large problems remain - the issue of analogue switch-off has still to be resolved and greater numbers of local radio stations than ever seem in danger of going to the wall.

So it's good to see industry players such as Global Radio's Stephen Miron calling for a bolder approach from the Government in naming a date for analogue switch-off. However, there may have been some raised eyebrows at Miron's contention that radio companies themselves need to be braver and his conclusion that "the truth is our industry has - at times - been too slow to embrace change".

Very true, but this is an industry whose largest commercial player is Global Radio, one that seems to me to have spent an overly long period obsessing over its own fortunes and structure than behaving like a real market leader and addressing what is going on around it. There's no reason to doubt what Miron says but it, and other major commercial groups such as Bauer and Guardian Media Group, still have much to do if they are to secure their long-term future.

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