Bordeaux, France — Across the globe, radio continues to play a pivotal role in communication and entertainment ecosystems; in the United States alone, it reaches 93% of the population. In fact, the seemingly ubiquitous adoption of smartphones has given almost everyone access to radio wherever they are, and its appeal continues to draw in listeners in their millions.
On the flipside, however, broadcasting infrastructure is a major energy consumer, with transmitters running 24/7/365. In the FM chain, for example, transmitters use anything from a few watts to dozens of kilowatts depending on the coverage area, landscape and radio program content. This large-scale operation as a whole, across the many thousands of networks around the world, is a major contributor to broadcast operating expenditure and adds to the environmental impact of the industry on a global level.
At the same time, energy costs are soaring across the globe, so reducing consumption is increasingly a top priority among radio broadcasters to lower operating expenses while answering the urgent need to implement greener solutions. As a result, it’s clear that the need for sustainability has become more critical than ever, but how can the FM broadcast industry act toward limiting its impact on the environment?
One step is to use energy-efficient transmitters. Modern FM transmitters are more efficient and consume less power than older models. Using these newer models, broadcasters can reduce their energy consumption and still deliver high-quality signals to listeners. However, even when using modern transmitters with improved design and performance, there is still a limitation to the physical optimization of components. This brings us to the next step: optimizing the transmission power.
One such way is for FM broadcasters to turn to innovative software technologies, which can result in substantially higher energy savings. Among the most important developments currently on the market is the implementation of artificial intelligence solutions that employ algorithms allowing broadcasters to cut their energy costs by up to 40% without impacting audio quality or coverage. For a 10 kW FM transmitter, the savings can reach up to 500 MWh over a decade.
The momentum behind the adoption of AI is growing. Last year, for example, there was a significant step toward national FM broadcast decarbonization in Germany with the deployment of AI technology across 800 FM transmitters.
With these “smart” technologies, the AI assesses audio content’s resistance to perturbations using a specific algorithm and, when the signal is stable, adjusts the transmitter power accordingly. In addition to a direct reduction of power usage, this “energy management’”leads to multiple cascading benefits, including reduced cooling requirements, decreased maintenance needs and extended transmitter lifespan.
This approach also significantly impacts environmental sustainability and helps organizations transition towards a more sustainable future.
FM broadcast decarbonization
The momentum behind the adoption of AI is growing. Last year, for example, there was a significant step toward national FM broadcast decarbonization in Germany with the deployment of AI technology across 800 FM transmitters. Various German public radio networks are adopting this technology, including Deutschland Radio, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln and Norddeutscher Rundfunk. The initial feedback from the first batch of users is consistently positive, confirming that the AI system offers energy savings without impacting audio quality or coverage.
As these technologies mature, the scope for further improvement and adoption of innovative technology is enormous. For broadcasters and their listeners, implementing such smart technologies represents a win-win for energy efficiency and environmental performance.
FM broadcasters can also look beyond the impact their transmitter technology has on sustainability to improve the energy sourcing of their radio stations. For example, they can turn to renewable energy sources like solar panels to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources. They can also adopt energy monitoring systems that enable them to identify areas where they can make their operations more efficient.
With pressure growing to create a more sustainable industry, those organizations that act decisively to minimize energy consumption and emissions are ideally placed to succeed in an era where stakeholders feel empowered to force positive change.
The author is director of marketing and communications at WorldCast Group.