Time for full digitisation of radio


Time for full digitisation of radio

The Digital Life: Editor's Write

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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WE at the Jamaica Observer have a stake in the transformation of Jamaica into a digital society. It would give us a tremendous opportunity to continue to better serve our loyal audiences who expect us to be 'Always Ahead'. Like many other progressive stakeholders committed to digital transformation, the Jamaica Observer was an early embracer of the trend at a time when many were reluctant. Today, we see that many others have joined in the calls for a quantum leap in conversion and removal of the barriers to equality of radio digitisation, which should have been in place a long time ago.

Europe embraced radio digitisation as a grouping and set the rules for engagement in the interest of operators, zealously guarding the interests of the consumer. One prime example is the move to digital audio broadcasting (DAB) which has now sped ahead of FM and AM transmissions. The latest survey shows that DAD broadcasts, available on all devices — home, office, cars, computers — now rank as number one among European audiences.

Imagine being able to listen to radio broadcasts anywhere in digital stereo with no dropouts. DAB offers a hearing enjoyment in (nearly) CD-quality, which is also interesting for hi-fi enthusiasts. DAB's most significant advantage is in mobile reception, ending the annoying rustle and the disturbances due to other stations. Multiple frequencies end the searching and switching to another frequency for the same station during a drive from Kingston to Negril.

DAB offers an improved use of data which stations now offer on your car dashboard. Listeners become viewers of critical information beyond song titles and artistes to traffic, news on events, weather forecasts, the most up to date news, and much more. For broadcast operators, the benefits are enormous since it is possible to offer as many as 16 types of programmes from one transmitter. The possibilities of niche programming are exciting, as shown in the new educational channels which ramped up in response to the shutdown of classrooms. Another benefit is the energy savings. DAB uses less electrical energy but delivers many programmes on the same channel, a development which could lead to far more efficient and profitable operations.

Why anyone would stand in the way of such progress is beyond comprehension. Thus, we challenge the new minister of technology to call for an immediate review of the steps to digital broadcasting and create a task force to implement same within a reasonable time frame. The task force should not waste its time going over the dusty files sitting at the ministry or stakeholder offices, but instead set out on a new path benefiting from the research which is available from those who are now running such systems.

Help is available from WorldDAB, the global industry forum for DAB digital radio. The organisation is committed to facilitating the adoption and implementation of digital broadcast radio. Operators in Europe, Asia Pacific and beyond have set standards which will allow for us to fast-track implementation. Their expertise will aid in systematic conversion from analogue to digital, including regulation, licensing, technical trials, and network build-out.

Also, Jamaica has earned a reputation as having substantial technical expertise which has delivered high-quality broadcasting over decades. It sure is time for the conversion from analogue to digital broadcasting. The fact that the USA has not proceeded to digital broadcasting in the same way they switched in television should not hinder us from showing them that Jamaica can lead them in another realm other than athletics.

It is worth noting that this matter strangely falls under the portfolio of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. We would have thought that this would be a matter rightly placed in the technology ministry but, it may turn out to be advantageous with the appointment of the former technology minister now taking over the information portfolio. Our call then goes out to Fayval Williams, someone more than familiar with the technology mandate, to make digitisation of radio one of her key priorities.

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