Digital radio has officially launched, with some 40 different radio stations across Australia broadcasting simultaneously to an audience of more than 8 million people from 7:40 am, and in doing the industry has ushered in a new type of device needed to receive it.
Like digital television, digital radio promises a better quality broadcast, more channels, electronic program guides, news and information, as well as the ability to manipulate the audio stream for more listening convenience through pausing, rewinding and music downloads.
Digital radio is free but a digital radio device (or receiver) with a DAB+ chip in it is required to receive the broadcast as existing radios cannot do so.
Test digital broadcasts have been underway since May, but it is the rate of uptake of new digital radio receivers that will determine its popularity.
In June, retailer Dick Smith Electronics published the results of an online survey that asked shoppers about their awareness of digital radio.
Some 69 per cent of people who took the survey knew about digital radio and 77 per cent said they are likely to upgrade to digital radio in the near future.
However, cost may be a barrier to upgrades with over two thirds of consumers not willing to spend $150 or more to buy a digital radio receiver.
Commercial Radio Australia has launched a digital radio portal, Digital Radio Plus, at Digitalradioplus.com.au to help consumers adopt the new technology, including a service to help locate a digital radio seller.
At the launch event, dubbed Radio United, the metropolitan commercial radio industry “road blocked” Australian metropolitan radio as a show of unity, simultaneously broadcasting a four minute audio piece that re-worked the iconic Australian song, You’re The Voice.
Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner said the industry has united for this event to illustrate the power of radio broadcasting.
The first screen based digital radio device available in Australia, the iRiver B30, was on display in each state and demonstrated the new visual aspects of digital radio.
A car also showed how listeners can hear digital radio while driving with the Pure Highway digital radio adaptor.
Hundreds of digital radios were given away to attendees of the launch events.
To find out whether digital radio is available in their location, people can use Digital Radio Plus or simply SMS at postcode to 0409DRPLUS (0409 377 587).