Comment 7M2G Re: This is huge

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Norway to shut down all analog FM radio

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This is huge (Score: 1)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2015-04-21 17:29 (#7H96)

I'm probably one of the last shortwave fans out there. Not the only one, obviously, but we are certainly a dying breed. And I've lived the last decade in the poorer parts of Africa, where you'd think shortwave and similar would still be big hits. Nope. Not only is there precious little on the shortwave bands anymore (except for some Chinese and way too many evangelists) but even poor Africans aren't listening to it.

What Africans ARE listening to is FM on their feature phones or smartphones. As a shortwave fan, this is hugely disappointing to me.

I've been on the mailing list of the DRM group for ages now - unfortunate acronym, it actually stands for Digital Radio Mondiale and I wish they'd change it. And it's been really interesting to watch them progress. Dig Radio replaces your radio with what's basically a small computer that processes the digital signal at relatively low expense. This was unheard of a decade ago when all we had were Pentium IIs, but modern systems on a chip make it possible and not that expensive, either computationally or economically. Dig Radio promises the propogation qualities of shortwave with the audio quality of FM. That's really huge, when you think about it.

By the way, I think this has implications for democratic promotion and the like. Despite jamming wars, it was possible at one time to beam a broadcast into a nation, where people could essentially listen to it without being tracked. TCP/IP as we all no know too well doesn't offer that same anonymity.

Will this new tech get coopted by the likes of ClearChannel and their buddies? Maybe, but Dig Radio offers huge promise, I think. The BBC and some other stations are experimenting with it; this move by the Scandinavians is promising. Maybe teh USA will wise up and give it a try too (maybe not).

At any rate, this is good news.

Re: This is huge (Score: 2, Informative)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-04-21 19:57 (#7HH8)

I think the proliferation of divergent standards is what has kept digital radio from taking-off, and giving streaming services the upper-hand. DAB in Europe, DMB (based on DVB-H) in parts of Asia, proprietary HDRadio in the US, DAB+ trying to usurp DAB, then DRM on shortwave making little headway.

If everyone would have standardized on DRM for their SW & MW frequencies, China would be turning out dirt-cheap recievers for it, it would be cheap enough to be built-in to almost every radio sold, so most everyone would have one.

For FM replacements, there's no clear winner. DAB and DAB+ requires several (independent) broadcasters to all operate together from the same broadcast tower, making it a difficult conversion. It does potentially offer CD quality audio thanks to the lossy codec, but that makes it a poor choice for squeezing in lots of lower-quality sub-channels. DAB+ fixes this latter issue, but takes away the advantage of the former, and being completely incompatible destroys the installed-base. DMB has too much overhead and no particular benefits. The IBOC (in-band on-channel) standards are much better options, but HDRadio is expensive and proprietary for no good reason. So once again, I'd be happy to see DRM adapted to operate on those higher FM frequencies as well. But countries that chose DAB are planning on repurposing their FM bands, so not even the frequency range is close, world-wide, and proliferating incompatibilites even more.

The ability of a broadcaster to merge their FM, MW (AM), & SW offerings into a single, seamless data stream would be incredible. Driving away from the city, your radio would just seemlessly jump from the FM station to a longer-range AM station carrying the same content, at slightly lower quality, without a hiccup. When going back into a city, the switch to higher-quality FM channels would be seamless as well.

A nation-wide network of MW transmitters with the same content would be relatively easy to do, thanks to their huge footprint, taking the band from the least valuable, to the more valuable spectrum for broadcasters. And potentially having a SW station or two as a backup even further out, would mean you'd have satellite-radio like coverage at pretty good quality, without the fees.

BUT, since DRM hasnt caught-on yet, I'd rather see a new IBOC transmission standard which uses patent-free modulation and error correction, the better & patent-free Opus codec, and require radios to include SD card slots for dowloading data broadcasts, as well as optional video screens, so radio stations can occasionally send images to listeners, wheter just album cover-art, traffic maps, personality headshots, relevant news images. etc

Re: This is huge (Score: 2, Interesting)

by bryan@pipedot.org on 2015-04-21 22:00 (#7HQE)

The few FM music stations we have in my area seem to have the equivalent music selection of a single disc CD player. Seriously. They play the same few songs over and over again, ad nauseam. Also, there are far more ads than songs played in any given hour.

What I find promising is the independently selected streaming services, like Spotify, that just use your wifi Internet connection (or eat some of you LTE data plan) to send you only the music that you actually want to hear.
  • all songs are on demand and selectable by the user
  • the playback is perfect (no static or crosstalk with other stations like FM)
  • subscriber based with no ads (I would rather pay a few bucks a month instead of listening to hours and hours of ads)
  • can make use of prefetching (queue up some data while on the strong wifi connection) and even storing your favorite songs (for when you have no data connection)
  • you can see the cover art and other meta information about the song
  • Spotify uses the Vorbis audio codec and has hinted on (eventually) switching to the Opus audio codec
P.S. Everyone knows that DRM stands for Direct Rendering Manager.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by billshooterofbul@pipedot.org on 2015-04-22 13:55 (#7K69)

The variety you hear on FM radio in the US depends on where you live. In rural areas, you pretty much just have country music, conservative or religious talk radio, and maybe a top 40 station if you aren't that rural. But in large cities you get a nice mix. I have several jazz radio stations to choose from, a few folk, a couple classical music, several rock variations, several top 40, several urban/r&b channels. I really do cherish the folk, jazz and classical stations. Some really obscure americana/ upcomming artists that haven't been popular enough to make spotify/pandora/google play music.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by lmariachi@pipedot.org on 2015-04-22 21:15 (#7M2G)

Don’t forget college radio. It can be a crapshoot, but even in rural areas if you’re near a college town there’s a good chance at finding more eclectic playlists than ClearChannel.

(Is there such a thing as college radio in other parts of the world?)

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