November 28 2022 8:10 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Radio broadcasts still have a long way to go

Jean Claude Elias
Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years. (File photo: Jordan News
Do digital radio broadcasts signal the end of frequency modulation, or FM? It is unlikely that the end will occur soon, especially since most countries have not yet adopted the technology.اضافة اعلان

Despite the wide availability of countless digital channels, networks, and ways to choose and listen to your music in high-definition sound quality, the good old, time-honored radio broadcast still has its audience and even has a long way to go.

Regardless of the support it is stored on or the internet service streaming it to you, the music you play from your own collection is music you select. Radio programs, on the other hand, make you feel like there is someone out there talking to you and choosing the music for you, bringing a pleasant feeling of the unexpected, the irreplaceable element of surprise. From a psychological viewpoint, this is priceless. This is even more accentuated if the broadcast includes not just music but also news and commercials. Entertainment and human communication are keywords here.

Some people still tune in to their favorite FM radio station at home or in the office. Still, the majority turn to the radio while driving in their car because of the convenience, the feeling of communication, and the fact that you can leave the radio playing on endlessly and focus on the road.

In terms of quality of sound, that is another story altogether. In most countries, the standard is still the FM radio, which does not quite cut it anymore, at least compared to the various digital contents we have gotten accustomed to. Limited audio spectrum, heavy compression, congestion, signal loss, and interferences are technical elements that make FM a less-than-perfect medium.

This is where Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) enters. In terms of sound quality and signal stability, DAB is clearly superior to FM. However, currently, just one country out of approximately three globally provides DAB and enhanced DAB (DAB+) services.

In the Arab world, and according to worlddab.org, the site of the reference DAB organization, only Kuwait, Qatar, and Tunisia have regular DAB broadcast services, whereas Algeria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are still in the trial phase and are setting up their norms and regulations. As for Bahrain and Jordan, they are said to “have an interest in the subject”. Worlddab.org adds: “A DAB+ workshop and trial took place in Amman in August 2017 organized by WorldDAB and Arab States Broadcasting Union, and hosted by Jordan Radio TV  and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC).”
Radio is about relating to and listening to broadcasts from your own neighborhood, or at least your city or your country. So, an internet radio — however good it may be — because it is probably broadcasting from a remote location in the world, would not be as interesting to you, except in very special cases.
TRC confirmed, over the phone, that there were no DAB broadcasts for the time being in the country. Importers of audio equipment have also confirmed that no DAB-enabled radio sets or receivers, be it for cars or homes, are imported into Jordan.

In terms of digital radio, apart from DAB, which is mainly considered a replacement for FM, one can always go to internet radios. Ligo.co.uk estimates that there are some 30,000 such stations in the world — an overwhelming number to choose from. This very wide choice is by itself a major advantage, given that it lets you select the exact type of program or music that you like, in the language that you prefer.

The disadvantage is the average sound quality. To preserve internet bandwidth, most often over WiFi, most stations are set with an encoding of 128kbps, with some set at 256kbps, which is still short of the better 320kbps. Therefore, internet radio sound quality is similar to that of the average Youtube music videos — except that the latter comes with the obvious image element advantage.

Radio is about relating to and listening to broadcasts from your own neighborhood, or at least your city or your country. So, an internet radio — however good it may be — because it is probably broadcasting from a remote location in the world, would not be as interesting to you, except in very special cases. Plus, the unmatched convenience of pressing just one button on your car stereo and listening to your favorite DJ is something internet radio cannot provide.

Listening to recorded music has continuously and repeatedly evolved over the last 50 years. From the analog times of the mediocre-sounding audio cassette tapes and the glorious vinyl records that were the reigning storage media until around 1985, the digital world has since taken us to the CD and now to audio streaming.

Depending on where we are at a given time of the day and what we are doing, we have a wide choice of means and channels, analog and digital. While on the road, however, nothing beats the good old radio.


The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.


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