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Radio in The Time of Digital: Defiance and Transformation

Radio in The Time of Digital: Defiance and Transformation

Radio has a long history in Indonesia. Beginning in 1925, in the colonial era, the first radio broadcast titled Batavise Radio Vereniging (BRV). then came local stations owned by Indonesians which became the forerunners of unifying Indonesian youth.

In 1945, with the help of radio, the reading of the Proclamation Text was distributed throughout Indonesia, even the world. What about radio today? With the internet as the new media, is it replacing the radio as a mass media? The answer is not necessarily.

Based on a survey conducted by Nielsen Indonesia in 2016, radio penetration in Indonesia reached 38% or around 20 million people. Even though they lost to the internet (40%) and television (96%), interestingly. The listeners were actually predominantly the younger generation.

Digital Disruption?

However, it cannot be denied, that there is indeed a decrease in the number of radio listeners. According to Diera Fajriah Larasati (a Radio Announcer at Indika FM) around 2016 – 2017 in Jakarta, the radio was not even taken into account by brands as a marketing medium.

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Nowadays, many advertisers are more interested in working with Instagram celebrities, or YouTube influencers. There are have a large number of followers, likes, or comments will be advertised. Sabrina Herawati (a News Traffic Announcer/Creative Officer at Indika FM) said that 2017 was the lowest point of radio when many stations died because of this.

Besides influencers, another challenge comes from paid streaming services like Spotify, Joox, Apple Music, and so on. Diera explained the flexibility in choosing songs to listen, to makes millennials prefer such services.

There used to be millions of people interacting by phone or text, now they can be counted on fingers. Feels like, I don’t care if you want to play this song. I can listen to it as well on Spotify.

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Diera argued that now the radio is challenged to have broadcasters with not only have good voices. “In the past, to have a golden voice is number one, now it is not. If the voice is good but the face is not, it is most likely hard to be an announcer for you.”

Although it sounds discriminating, such a thing is deemed necessary to them because of the competition with digital content, including video content from YouTube. “We also have to entertain a lot of people. If someone has a good voice but cannot be stylish nor take care of themselves, they could be eliminated,” she said.


Nevertheless, this doesn’t make the station practitioner’s spirit recede. Sabrina explained that radio also has its own strength. For example, the placement of advertisements and information on the radio makes the listener remember quickly.

“The listeners who listen to our advertisements will usually be more interested in the radio. Because they only need ears, they don’t have to see it to remember it quickly. Furthermore, we play a lot of sound effects, so they can remember it faster. Citra Dyah Prastuti, Editor-in-Chief of KBR agreed because it needs to convey information in simple and short language.

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“It also delivers information faster, especially for the rural areas. Sometimes, the internet alone couldn’t even reach the highlands of Java, what about Kalimantan and others? The newspaper even takes longer.

Around 2000, newspapers needed up to two days to reach in Ambon. The local newspaper also stagnates because they lack human resources. TV is also a relatively expensive item, actually.” voiced Citra.

She also argued TV production could take a long time and price-wise is more expensive than radio. For her, that is where people can get the fastest and most accessible information.

Make Peace With Digital

Inevitably, radio does have to adapt to digital.



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