EBU pushes hybrid digital radio system

The EBU has produced recommendations for a hybrid digital radio technology that will enable operators to create a full production and broadcast system for approximately €5000, writes Kevin Hilton.
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The EBU has produced recommendations for a hybrid digital radio technology that will enable operators to create a full production and broadcast system for approximately €5000, writes Kevin Hilton. Radio accounts for a substantial part of IBC each year but, in the words of Peter MacAvock (pictured), programme director of the EBU technical department, it is still the "forgotten medium". Hybrid TV has been what MacAvock describes as a "hot topic" for the last few years. It combines traditional and emerging broadcast formats, including HD and 3D, with broadband delivery and multimedia features. Now similar principles are being applied to radio, bringing together FM analogue and DAB+ and DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) digital transmission with RadioDNS and IP streaming. RadioDNS is a variation of the Domain Name System internet format for translating names into IP addresses. This can connect devices with either analogue FM or digital receivers to the web, giving access to a wide range of information and resources. MacAvock says that combining RadioDNS with other technologies will bring radio fully into the "digital domain". He acknowledges attempts to do this up to now have been "tortuously difficult" but says that this year will see the start of a full broadcast chain based on open service architecture. Part of this is the "broadcast hotspot", which compensates for multimedia devices, such as the iPad and iPhone, which do not contain radio tuners. In these cases external Wifi or Bluetooth units would provide radio reception. Hybrid digital radio was developed by engineers from EBU Technical and Eurovision, working with CRC in Canada for DAB and broadcast hotspot expertise, Global Radio for RadioDNS on the Nokia N900 and Spark for DRM. The EBU says that by using open standards and new technology, a full production and broadcast system for local operators can be built for less than €5000. The inclusion of FM in the hybrid digital radio specification would seem to reflect the growing doubts about digital radio formats but Peter MacAvock says the EBU is taking a realistic view because the analogue format will "be around for a very long time". He says that combining RadioDNS with the RDS (Radio Data System) already available in FM to automatically tune services will give "unique identifiers" for handling information. The aim, says MacAvock, is ultimately to replicate the universality of FM at reasonable costs, something the industry would agree has so far eluded digital radio. www.tech.ebu.ch



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