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Smart speaker makers could face new rules to protect listener access to radio

An Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker (Amazon/PA)
An Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker (Amazon/PA)

Smart speaker makers such as Amazon and Apple could face new rules aimed at protecting listeners’ access to radio services, according to a Government report.

The Government’s Digital Radio and Audio Review found devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home are owned or accessed by a third of all adults and play an important role in many people’s lives, despite only being available for around five years.

The report recommends new measures designed to ensure UK radio stations and their content are carried on smart speakers and car “infotainment” systems.

Apple HomePod
Apple’s HomePod (Apple/PA)

Commissioned by the Government and undertaken with industry stakeholders including commercial radio groups, the BBC, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and techUK, the review looked at the challenges radio services are likely to face in the future from changing listening habits and new technologies.

Its suggestions also include holding off on any mandated switch-off of analogue radio until at least 2030, ensuring the elderly, vulnerable and people in remote communities can access news and entertainment.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the Government would take the findings into account as it prepares a Broadcasting White Paper.

Media minister Julia Lopez said: “British radio showcases some of our best creative talent and played a vital role in the pandemic bringing news and entertainment to those in need.

“We must make sure this treasured medium continues to reach audiences as listening shifts to new technologies and that we have a gradual transition away from FM to protect elderly listeners and those in remote areas.

“We will not have a digital switchover until at least 2030 and will consider new rules to keep our thriving radio sector at the heart of the UK’s media landscape.”

The review also found the long-term future of the UK radio industry is increasingly dependent on listeners having free access to stations via smart speakers and other connected devices.

Some 64% of audio consumed on a smart speaker is live radio and the review predicted live radio will still account for more than half of UK audio listening in the mid-2030s.

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