Digital Radio is the delivery of radio content using digital technologies. It includes both digital broadcasting technology (like DAB/DAB+) and the streaming of radio services over the internet.
This is the reason why digital radio is much more than a distribution technology, it is should be rather considered a holistic process to modernize radio. In this process, distribution technology, user experience, and content become equally important.
The goal is to enhance radio proposition without dismantling its very nature.
Radio core values
Terrestrial Radio plays a crucial role in most societies around the globe. Universally available and free at the point of use, it is the primary destination and reference point for audio delivery, providing audiences with news, music and information. Across Europe, citizens welcome and recognize the value of radio, listening to an impressive 2:24 hours of radio each day.
The terrestrial broadcasting network is resilient during natural disasters, national emergencies and when mobile connectivity is restricted, for instance following a terrorist incident. It is a vital asset in keeping the population informed in emergencies or when public safety is endangered. This highly significant role of radio is endorsed by the ITU, which underlines its relevance for public warning, disaster mitigation and relief in the Report ITU-R BT.2299-0.
Public service broadcasters reach a wide public. Radio reception is always possible, both in cities and rural areas. In 2015, radio reached 85% of European citizens weekly,
Key reasons for digital terrestrial radio
Analogue radio is a bottleneck to innovation
Terrestrial Radio’s evolution can only happen provided that adequate frequency resources are made available.
Digital terrestrial transmission is more efficient but still less expensive. The operational expense to run a digital radio network is of the same order of magnitude of the equivalent analog radio network.
A path to the future
Radio audience trends show a growing appetite for personalized audio consumption on a number of different devices.
EBU Strategic Programme on Radio
The topic of Radio is part of the EBU's Strategic Programme on Radio
- Helping members create a strategy for moving to Digital Radio
- Representing member interests in international fora and lobbying for the interest of public service media
- Helping to develop open standards for Digital and Hybrid Radio
- Create tools and platforms for members to use to enhance their offering with Digital and Hybrid Radio technologies (e.g. Our RadioDNS Open Metadata platform and Visual Contentmanager).
- Organise the Radiohack community with events and initiatives.
If you are interested in Radio, join our group on this topic and participate in the discussions. Please note that this group is currently open to EBU members only, although we may invite external contributors.
Digital Radio standards
The DAB family of standards have designed as a digital radio solution for band III, especially robust for mobile applications with capacity for carrying a wide variety of audio and associated multimedia services.
Audio and data services are carried in a multiplex, with each multiplex broadcasting on a single block within Band III. Data services can include Programme Guides, Visual Slideshows, TPEG traffic data, and a number of others.
DAB+ uses HE-AACv2 audio, and can deliver improved quality at a lower bitrate, and thus leave more room for additional services on a multiplex.
The EBU recommends that broadcasters implement digital radio broadcast using DAB+, alongside RadioDNS Hybrid Radio services.
Hybrid Radio is of key importance to broadcasters, given a convergence of broadcast and broadband - improving the radio user experience by making the best of both approaches.
In this scenario, broadcast networks efficiently deliver the content to listeners, free-to-air whilst an available broadband connection can add additional or higher quality content to enrich the experience, offer interactivity and enable personalisation.
The EBU is currently working actively in Hybrid Radio to develop standards and services for its members, alongside RadioDNS.
The EBU RadioDNS Manager is provided as a service to its members in order to provide the ability for broadcasters to reach further with Hybrid Radio. Learn more about this on its webpage on EBU.io
OMRI (Open Mobile Radio Interface)
The goal of this project is open an API to mobile phone tuner functionalities, enabling developers to easily integrate broadcast reception in their applications:
Visit the OMRI webpage on EBU's github.
Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) has been designed as a digital radio solution for bands currently used for analogue service (LW, MW, SW) offering an improved audio quality and easy tuning while keeping the advantage of a large coverage area with few transmitters.
DRM+ is an extension to DRM in Bands I, II and III with increased bandwidth, enabling enhanced audio quality and multimedia.
Digital Radio Rollout
EBU R 138 - Digital Radio Deployment in Europe, recommends that, Digital radio broadcasting in VHF Band III, where it is available, be established and DAB+ (ETSI TS 102 563) audio services be used for new services.
DAB/DAB+ radio is gaining consensus and momentum in Europe and as shown in the map below, in fact, the number of European countries rolling out the technology is consistent and increasing.
Digital leaders are the countries at the forefront of digital radio according to most indicators, including extensive coverage, expanded offer of new services, advanced legislation and regulation, including criteria and sometimes even dates for the switchover.
Digital embracers are those countries where DAB+ has been launched nationally, with exclusive services (different from analogue broadcasting). Receivers are on the market, promotion campaigns are being run and penetration is growing (at various rates).
Digital newbies are those countries that have recently launched DAB+ services, with exclusive stations but limited coverage (specific cities or regions) and limited or no commitment from some stakeholders.
Wait-and-see describes those countries where regular digital radio services or trials are available but there is nearly no market because of a lack of receivers and, generally, a lack of commitment from the various stakeholders (this can be seen, for example, in the lack of exclusive services).
Radio user experience has historically been one of the key elements that made radio extremely popular. Simple, direct, accessible.
While listeners’ requirements and expectations have been changing over the years, supported by new devices and distribution technologies, radio has only partially exploited the opportunities that these new technologies offer.
The open.radio project aims to help redefine the concept of radio, modernize it and make it fit for the future.
The project has four objectives:
- Modernize the radio user experience.
- Guarantee prominence of radio across devices.
- Facilitate and foster innovation
- Minimise the need for gatekeepers
This can be achieved by the creation of an Open Platform for Hybrid Metadata, as a collaboration with stakeholders, creating a reference platform for high-quality additional user services.
The project focuses on three areas, interactivity, adaptability and accessibility.
One of Radio’s original unique selling points was its simplicity. Finding a station involved turning the radio on and scanning the available frequencies.
While this principle largely still holds, the additional complexity of modern receivers means that this is no longer the simple operation it once was, nor a rich enough user experience compared to audio services elsewhere.
To do so open.radio will deliver:
- a report on additional interactivity that should be at the core of the modern radio experience, and how it could be implemented in a consistent and intuitive way.
For example, these operations will include how listeners can find the content using voice or intuitive touch commands, search station by name or genre, the presentation of onair metadata such as rich track information, how to mix linear and non-linear content, etc.
The user experience of radio will need to continue to evolve and keep pace with audience expectations.
This can be achieved through the use of a consistent, standardized set of APIs that can be integrated into new devices and applications, providing the data that is needed for new user experiences.
To do so open.radio will deliver:
- an Open Hybrid Metadata Platform containing all necessary information to enable additional interactivity
- an Open API for third party devices and applications to make use of this information
This platform will be agile and extensible, and able to accommodate new use cases and services.
The power of radio is its direct connection between broadcast and listener, with no intermediary.
In the analogue world, this meant broadcasting on a particular frequency. In the modern connected world, this means providing the means for a listener to discover the content they are looking for, without having to use a single aggregator or gatekeeper.
To do so open.radio will deliver:
- retain the accessibility of traditional broadcasting, including equitable and free-to-air access to all radio services.
- use open, freely available, international metadata standards
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