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For Immediate Release Wednesday, June 28, 2001:
Newly Released Study Strongly Contradicts BBC World Service Arguments for Ending Shortwave Radio Service
Internet Not Replacing Radio, Arbitron Finds
Service to North America and Australasia Still Set to End July 1
A new study about high speed Internet users just released by Arbitron and Coleman has found that online streaming media-which provides audio and video through the computer-have not caught on and "are not yet generating habitual use".
The Arbitron results call into serious question the BBC's strategy of ending shortwave to North America and Australasia and directly contradicts the BBC's central argument that it is simply responding to its audience's migration from shortwave radio to Internet streaming audio.
"When you take into account that only a minority of Americans, let alone Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders have access to high speed Internet in the first place--and then add the results of this study--you have to wonder about the credentials of those who are advising the BBC World Service in its streaming audio strategy," said Ralph Brandi, a spokesman for the Coalition to Save the BBC World Service.
(The Coalition, with its web site at http://www.savebbc.org, is an association of radio listeners and organizations that seeks reconsideration of the BBC's decision to end use of shortwave to North America and Australasia on July 1.)
Released on June 20 at a convention for the streaming media industry, the study--entitled Broadband Revolution 2: The Media of Speedies--looks at the habits of those with access to high speed Internet connections, which the study terms "speedies". The study compared Internet usage to that of other media and found that heavy Internet users tend to use the Internet with television or radio simultaneously, rather than with audio or video streaming via the computer.
"At least one in five speedies 'frequently' listen to...radio (23%) or watch television (21%) when at a computer, demonstrating how speedies often combine 'traditional' media with their computer usage", the study claims. On the other hand, the study found that only one in twenty or "no more than 5% of speedies report listening to streaming audio, watching downloaded video files or watching streaming video frequently when at a computer."
One of the study's key findings is that "[s]treaming media show little potential for 'hurting' traditional broadcast media and will more likely complement radio and television."
There are other elements in the study that challenge the BBC's argument that Internet audio already serves as a suitable replacement for radio:
High speed internet access to the home seriously lags behind that to the workplace.
The majority of "speedies", roughly two-thirds, have high speed access at work, and only a third have such access at home. Further, fully 70% of those users who only have access at work have no plan to obtain such access at home.
Streaming media have not caught on with the vast majority of heavy Internet consumers.
Streaming media are still in the early stages of development, and "there are still many speedies who have tried it but do not consume it on a regular basis." Despite the fact that such users are "the perfect group to try streaming", the majority disregard it. The study explains that "63% of speedies have never tried audio streaming", and that "only 12% of speedies have listened to streaming audio in the past week."
Even those users who do partake of streaming audio use it in addition to the radio, not in replacement of it.
"Two-thirds--67%--of [people who use streaming audio] say that their usage of streaming audio has been in addition to their...radio listening." Very few, only 6%, of people using streaming audio say that it has replaced a large portion of their radio listening. The study found that using streaming audio was currently too difficult, and that "one of the most cited reasons for not listening more frequently to streaming audio was that it was 'too time consuming.' Portability is a good example of something that will assist in making streaming easier to use."
When heavy Internet users were asked "whether radio or the Internet is better for a number of audio attributes, most Internet audio users selected radio."
"The BBC's move is unmistakably premature, to put it mildly" said Brandi. "If Americans are migrating in droves to the Internet to hear the World Service, as the BBC claims, where are they in this professionally conducted and publicly released Arbitron survey?" he challenged. "If the BBC has a methodology and numbers that support its decision, why are they loathe to share them?"
The Arbitron/Coleman study, entitled Broadband Revolution 2: The Media World of Speedies, is available for free in PDF format from the Arbitron web site at <http://www.arbitron.com/newsroom/archive/article3.htm>.
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