A project funded by Germany’s Bavarian State Chancellery is testing a novel approach to digital radio: Using technical clustering to combine different channels into a single, bespoke broadcast experience for a listener.
The project, titled ART [Announcement Radio Toolbox] is a collaboration between the Bayerische Medien Technik, the Bavarian Regulatory Authority for new media, Mediaschool Bayern, Bayerische Lokal-Radioprogramme and Bayern Digital Radio.
In the project, different music genres, such as electro, country and jazz, are broadcast parallel to an information channel via DAB+ in Bavaria. Announcements on the information channel are digitally “tagged” according to category: road traffic, transport, news, warning, special event, event announcement, area weather, program information, financial report or sports report.
Listeners with receivers supporting this feature select their preferred announcement categories. They choose their favorite music channel, and when a preferred announcement is available, the radio fades out the music, switches to the information channel and returns to the music program afterward.
Automated radio announcements are not a new concept — German state broadcasters used Autofahrer Rundfunk Information on FM from the 1970s and, after that, RDS for traffic announcements. However, ART is capitalizing on technical possibilities offered by DAB+ to expand the capabilities for automated announcements into new territories.
The project is incorporating other technical innovations, including the cloud-based production of music programs, speech synthesis of spoken content, virtualization of DAB multiplexers and the IP-based contribution to DAB transmitters. The project is also evaluating various receivers and surveying user experiences.