European Parliament showcases hybrid radio

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) gave live, practical demonstrations of its hybrid multimedia radio concept at the European Parliament in Brussels last week (11th October), writes Kevin Hilton.
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The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) gave live, practical demonstrations of its hybrid multimedia radio concept at the European Parliament in Brussels last week (11th October), writes Kevin Hilton. The technology was launched at IBC 2010 and is intended as a cheap, easy way for broadcasters to add additional text material and pictures alongside radio programmes. Two one-hour shows, one in French, one in English, were broadcast from the European Parliament's Vox Box multimedia studio. The English language programme was hosted by Lotta Bromé (pictured, centre, during the transmission), presenter of Swedish Radio's P4 Extra show. Pictures of Bromé and the guests, plus captions and additional information, were inserted into DAB+, DRM, RadioDNS and Internet radio streams. The main programmes and multimedia slides could be picked up by a variety of devices, including radios with integrated screens, smartphones and tablets. The hybrid radio demos took place on the first day of the EBU's Digital Radio Conference, which served as a platform for the Union's position that the future of radio listening will involve a combination of broadcast transmissions and the internet. Presentations and a workshop on the technology were given during the two-day conference by Mathias Coinchon, senior engineer with EBU Technical, and Matthew Trustram, project manager for new media at EBU Radio. Coinchon comments that a practical demonstration involving a talk show was chosen as the best way to "help our members understand hybrid radio with visuals". The programmes at the European Parliament were co-produced by the EBU and Belgian broadcaster RTBF, which is already using the technology for transmissions. "Our members are interested but are at different rates of development in terms of this," says Coinchon. "It is something individual broadcasters will do in their own time." Trustram adds that there is the potential for hybrid radio because so many devices that can receive radio - traditional style digital radios, smartphones and tablets - now have screens. "The intention is to add information like pictures and captions into a normal workflow with minimal cost," he says. "What is on the screen has to be useful but not essential. If it is essential then the medium stops being radio." www.ebulabs.org

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