EBU Cites Benefits of Public Radio Music

Karina Canellakis, conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, with conductor Karina Canellakis, on the left.

The author of this commentary is the head of European Broadcasting Union Radio, a public service media alliance with 115 member organizations in 56 countries. Discover his mission here.

Every day, audiences across Europe access music programming on public media through EBU members. In doing so, they can open a window to a wide variety of musical genres, accounting for about half of the hours of programming broadcast.

In the early days of radio, broadcasters had to invest in live music creation, as commercial music interests feared that radio broadcasting would affect their sales. Thus, studio ensembles, radio dance orchestras and radio choirs were born.

Of course, we’ve come a long way since that time, but the extraordinary investment in musicians and music continues. Even during this troubled year for the music industry, public media organizations have sought opportunities to bring live music back to their services.

Obligation and privilege

With a plentiful supply of commercial music available elsewhere, for example via streaming services, what can public media add to an already rich mix?

Due to the special way in which EBU members are funded, there is the obligation and even the privilege to support national musical life. This may involve giving platforms to unsigned bands, offering experience and visibility to young composers and musicians, and commissioning new music.

Yes, in short, the public media are there to take risks and stimulate creativity on a national scale. Case studies have shown that the range of music played is wider than on commercial channels.

Public radio then offers opportunities for musicians and an enriched listening experience. And of course, within the EBU it is extremely important that these cultural events, produced at national level, can be shared on an international basis.

Thanks to the extraordinary Music Exchange within the EBU, around 5,000 hours of content are exchanged in a typical year. It is not a typical year; but in the coming months, we look forward to rebuilding steadily as more live events occur. Fortunately, we are already seeing the green shoots.

An economic boon

Like other broadcasters, EBU members follow audience trends and platform usage; but what has never been fully analyzed is the extraordinary economic impact of the investment which leads to the positive experiences of the auditors mentioned above.

We are therefore delighted to have commissioned work involving Oxford Economics and the EBU Media Intelligence Service, work which clearly demonstrates that in addition to cultural and societal benefits, investment generates substantial economic benefit (see The economic impact of the musical activities of public radio, “ Oxford Economics, 2020, free access with a new user login).

Among the members of the EBU we can count more than 120 musical ensembles, about half of which are orchestras, the rest are choirs and smaller ensembles. This directly creates more than 17,000 jobs, including 5,800 directly employed musicians, at a cost of over 1 billion euros. Across the European Union, this represents around 20% of overall investment in the music and radio sectors.

If we then take into account the additional impacts of the purchases needed to support the business, as well as the personnel costs, we can see a larger impact of over € 3 billion, supporting over 50,000 jobs.

Additionally, and not quantified in the report, there is a notable effect of encouraging listeners by public media to explore new genres, to discover emerging musicians, especially in the purchase or streaming of a wide range of musical genres.

The very positive contribution here is around the support it gives to launch new careers and – in doing so – help build national cultural capital, in many cases resulting in exports through international tours and sales.

When we enjoy the choice of music on our radios, when we hear one of the many orchestras and choirs performing, we should definitely enjoy this special moment.

However, there is a larger picture, namely the substantial economic benefits of this activity, supporting the artists involved and giving them a regular platform, but also nurturing the economies of the countries where such investments take place.

An EBU webinar on September 22 will explore “Support music for PSM: the economic impact. ”

The organization also published a list of radio ensembles managed by EBU members, comprising 56 orchestras, 47 choirs and 24 additional ensembles.


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