Digital Radio’s Global Consensus

It’s a tale of two futures for broadcasting. In the United States, as the radio industry and regulators wrestle with a poorly-designed and proprietary digital radio standard, online competitors are eroding the market share of stations and redefining radio itself in the process. Our reaction so far has been carefully-cultivated denial and wild swings between cheerleading and hand-wringing. Contrast that with Europe, which has widely adopted the Eureka 147 DAB standard. Now nearly 30 years old, DAB has gone through an evolution of its own, and the latest variant is called DAB+.

Many countries that initially adopted DAB are rebuilding their networks to accommodate DAB+. Cross-compatible receivers are on the market, and since the system works on non-broadcast spectrum, countries have some flexibility on how to build and deploy their digital radio networks. Read More

FM-in-Smartphones Effort Goes Global

A consortium of broadcasters, including the The European Broadcast Union, the BBC, and several commercial broadcasters in the U.S., U.K, and Australia have launched the “Universal Smartphone Radio Project,” a campaign to lobby for building radio reception into smartphones. Sales of stand-alone radio receivers (both analog and digital) have been in steady decline for the last decade, and as media consumption-time shifts to mobile devices, radio broadcasters have found themselves by and large not in the mix.

The fix for this is what is now being called “hybrid radio,” defined as a radio signal plus a mobile data connection to provide enhanced content beyond audio and some interactivity. In the EU, this effort is being led by RadioDNS; in the States, it’s NextRadio. The campaign’s been in the talking stages since at least February and covered extensively in a presentation to the EBU in July. Read More

Pirate Broadcasting in the Digital Age

In many parts of the world, radio is slowly transitioning to a digital transmission platform—but so far, this new frontier has not been plumbed by pirates. Part of this is due to the relatively immature state of radio’s digital transition, but some of the systems have been around long enough that they’re ripe for experimentation.

In very simple terms, the primary thing to keep in mind is that the heart of a digital radio transmission system is the software that controls the transmitter. The more freely-available the software, the more possible to play with. In global contention, there are three contending platforms of note, though their DIY-potential varies: Read More

DAB Defections Continue

Media Corporation of Singapore, one of the country’s largest commercial radio and television broadcasters, has announced it will end its digital radio broadcast service on December 1.

MediaCorp was the first broadcaster in southeast Asia to launch DAB service (1999). It was also quite blunt about the rationale to end it: “[T]the growth in listenership…has remained stagnant. On the other hand, the rapid growth in the number of listeners through online streaming and phone app[s]…has shown that these platforms are serving the listeners more effectively than the DAB platform.” Read More

U.K. to Refarm FM?

This appears to be a first: British broadcast regulator Ofcom is floating the idea of using FM radio spectrum to provide wireless broadband access in rural areas.

The United Kingdom is nearly 20 years into an attempted digital radio transition. It (and much of the rest of the developed world) has adopted a digital broadcast technology that uses spectrum outside the AM and FM bands. However, the development of digital radio is as stalled (or worse) in the U.K. at it is in the United States. Read More