Speaking at the WorldDAB General Assembly – a gathering for everyone involved in digital radio from broadcasters to manufacturers and regulators – Dixon encouraged the group to reflect on information sources in the 21st Century.
Every minute of every day, audiences are absorbing information on a variety of digital devices but do we examine who might be filtering the information and what the political and commercial interests behind the stories might be? While social media and excellent information sources now connect the world and provide undisputed value, they may not be entirely benign.
Apart from the fact that we can all create our own ‘filter bubbles’, surrounding ourselves with comfortable thoughts, any commercially orientated service will naturally direct consumers towards business partners. These services will also favour information which complies with their own algorithms, and require sign-up and possibly subscription.
Dixon confirmed that while he was a fan of Amazon Echo (the hands-free speaker robot), not least because of what it can offer to people with disabilities, he was concerned that such vehicles can accentuate these trends.
Recent world events, such as Brexit and the American elections, have shown that the future of our societies rests on delivering a plurality of viewpoints to as wider audience as possible, without subscriptions and gatekeepers, and free at the point of delivery. The existence of such services can bring fractured societies together, and - through treating them as adults - help people form their own opinions. Digital radio has a vital role to play in maintaining the medium as a service which is both universal and diverse, bringing radio up-to-date with data, visuals and – in its hybrid form – interactivity.
Seeking out other gatekeepers, Dixon noted that remaining exclusively in the FM domain also constituted a gatekeeper, however balanced the conventional radio output. By restricting the number of channels available, it inevitably blocked – in a passive aggressive manner - the launch of new services and the further plurality of voices which DAB can provide. For all these reasons, pressing ahead with DAB was vital; in the words of the President of the Italian regulator, AGCOM, ‘we cannot leave the building site with the work unfinished’. Yes, DAB has been a hole in the road for too long – we need to press on so the highway is complete.