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Radioplayer set for January

Andy Stout 22 December 2010

The rate card and style guide for Radioplayer, the universal console for UK radio station websites, have been released ahead of its phased roll-out next month, writes Kevin Hilton.

The project is supported by the BBC and leading commercial groups including Global, Absolute and GMG with the aim of creating a single interface for listening to radio services on the internet.

Stations signing up to Radioplayer will pay an annual licence fee, which includes operating and start-up costs. The amount depends on the size of station; fees for small services reaching less than 50,000 people start at £90, rising to £23,040 for big stations with an audience of over 3.2 million.

The managing director of UK Radioplayer Limited, Michael Hill (pictured), describes the project as being based on fairness and equality, with broadcasters from the likes of BBC Radio 2 at the top of the scale to Two Lochs FM, officially the smallest commercial station in Britain, all able to have an online broadcasting presence.

The rate card was published at the beginning of December, together with terms and conditions and a style guide. This last document outlines what Radioplayer looks like and how it operates.

Hill says Radioplayer was conceived to offer a standard online console that could be adapted by broadcasters and third-party developers to meet specific requirements. "A great many people listen to three to four stations – from music to news – and that’s what people love about radio and their radios," he comments. "But there’s no consistency between the various web-based players being used now for radio services, so we began to look at what we could do to produce something more universal."

Among initial suggestions was a centralised website for all stations but this was rejected in favour of a system that can be tailored to match a broadcaster’s style and audience. The basic Radioplayer can be customised, or "skinned" in three ways: by stations’ own developers using the common code base to create a bespoke system; employing a third-party console or service, which is being offered by some companies; or relying on the player-making tools available through Radioplayer.

The standards for the device were developed and are owned by UK Radioplayer Limited, a not-for-profit company founded by the BBC, Global, GMG, Absolute and trade organisation the RadioCentre.

Hill says Radioplayer is starting small but that there is scope for true egalitarianism in online radio by giving operators the same basic tool. The internet has been touted as a major threat to broadcast radio in general, and DAB in particular, but Hill sees the web – and Radioplayer – as part of an overall "complex picture".

The phased launch of Radioplayer during January involves "hundreds" of stations but Hill does not foresee much public usage until the full consumer launch in the following month. "We have 300 of the 400 Ofcom-registered stations already signed up and we see the whole project as very much pan-industry," he says. "We want to lower the entry barrier to online radio. By early February stations will be cutting over to Radioplayer as their primary player."

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