BBC World Service features DRM

In this BBC World Service report, Mark Whittaker explores Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) and, especially, its potential in India. Use the embedded player or link below to listen:

(Source: Audioboo via Tarmo Tanilsoo on Facebook)

drmlogoYou’ll note the BBC World Service fails to mention that DRM has been in use now for over a decade.

The report ends by suggesting that portable DRM receivers will be on the market in a few months. Even if DRM radios start appearing, whether or not they’ll be effective and inexpensive remains to be seen. So far, portable DRM radios have been mediocre performers (at best) and relatively expensive.

Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see DRM take hold, I just have my doubts. DRM might stand a chance if a manufacturer like Tecsun were to build an inexpensive portable radio, with a form factor much like that of their other portables. If they made a DRM version of the PL-380, for example, it could be a winner for both the company and the medium/mode.

By the way, if you’ve never heard what DRM sounds like over the shortwaves, I just posted a fifty eight minute recording of All India Radio on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Contributor, Mark Fahey, recorded the broadcast from his home in Australia.

I’ve embedded a link to the audio below, but you can listen to the broadcast and read Mark’s notes on the shortwave archive (click here).

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7 thoughts on “BBC World Service features DRM

  1. Mike Barraclough

    Seems not everybody at the Indian State broadcaster is convinced by this plan.
    “You will soon be able to catch your favourite regional radio programmes on FM radio with maximising of the existing technology and junking of the “mindless” and “silly” plan of introducing digital radio, says Prasar Bharati chief Jawhar Sircar.”

  2. Rob

    DRM could be the killer app for medium wave broadcast radio in the U.S., but only if it is re-branded under another name (anything, even “DM” would do). To the minds of tech-savvy broadcast radio outsiders, DRM sounds like yet another Digital Rights Management scheme, of which they want no part.

    Last year I informally asked some of my co-workers (most of them scientists and IT support people), “There’s this new digital radio broadcast standard that could change everything. It’s called DRM. What do you think?” Some of their responses:
    — “Oh HELL no!”
    — “Great, how much do we have to cough up to Microsoft this time?”
    — “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…”
    — “This is a joke, right?”

    Forget it. Anything called DRM is dead as disco in the U.S. Now, call Digital Radio Mondiale anything but “DRM” in this country and it might have a chance.

  3. TP Reitzel

    Oh, please … stop the doom and gloom. LoL

    I fully understand that some of you have been involved with HF a long time and waited patiently for DRM to mature as a global standard. With the xHE-AAC codec, the time has arrived for DRM to shine … and it will despite the doom and gloom. 😉

  4. Jonathan Marks, Director of Disruptive Innovation

    one more thing. I think I’ve worked out how the BBC World Service made that shortwave montage in the piece above You go to the website Interval signals dot net and click Alaska and Andorra. Pity that the recording from AWR via Andorra dates back to 1981. Sounds exotic, but those days are long since over.

  5. Jonathan Marks, Director of Disruptive Innovation

    Nigel’s a nice guy. But I’m afraid this is a perceived technical need which seems to be divorced from all the other media available in India. Will people buy a new radio to listen to a handful of stations in slightly better audio quality?

    I voiced the first DRM SW tests in 1996. Nearly 20 years seems to a long time to be testing, especially in an age when media is moving from push to pull. It reminds me when people were asked if they wanted a digital DAB radio in 1994. Most people said yes, but they had no reference, no mobile, no satellite TV. The future is hybrid. Maybe DRM has a place, but only as a technology inside something else.

    Victor Goonetilleke said in 2003 that no-one will buy a discrete DRM radio. I don’t see that anything has changed. See the video here.

    8 minutes in.

    I Think it might be worth looking at the recent speech by Helen Boaden, Director of BBC Radio at a recent conference in Ireland.

    Look at what she reveals 3 minutes 24 seconds into the speech about the dramatic drop in the sales of radio sets across the UK, arguably one of the markets in the world still producing quality radio programming. Which is why international broadcasters need to understand their audiences’ content need and behaviour before investing anything in choosing the distribution platform.

    People in India are not waiting for a digital replacement to their existing analogue radio. They may be interested in a device that gives them access to “news they can use”.

    If you’re in Sudan or Somalia that probably means a simple analogue shortwave radio. But not in India, China, Russia or Brazil. The window of opportunity for DRM as a stand-alone device has opened and shut.

  6. dl4no

    From the 1980s until well into the new century I was very happy with my Sony ICF 7600D. AT some point in time I had to replace it. It should have been a DRM radio with a similar form factor and power consumption. But such a radio has not appeared.

    For today’s DSP radio this problem should be no more than some memory space. Perhaps India will manage to create a market for reasonable DRM radios.


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