a previous article in this series about RDS, I wrote that vendors and
broadcasters should support RT+, a data stream you can add to your encoding
that identifies the text in your RadioText. Receiver manufacturers then would
have more incentive to include it in future models.
Most receivers support upper- and lowercase letters. Use
Photos by Alan Jurison
theme of our articles is that we all should do more to ensure that the RDS
information we display is clear and concise. Many of the topics below can be
applied to all metadata delivery platforms, such as streaming audio on the
Internet, as well as HD Radio Program Service Data (PSD), formerly known as
Program Associated Data (PAD).
ALBUM TITLE DATA
Stations with RDS, HD Radio or Internet
streaming that support song title and artist should supply the album title
information (if applicable) as well. Our competitors — satellite radio,
Internet pure-plays and even once-feared digital cable radio — have been doing
this for years. Even many of our websites and streaming initiatives show album
data. Some of the latest receiver designs display the album title in a
prominent position on the screen.
most stations in the United States do not transmit album title data. These
radios display black space where the album title data should appear.
Many stations seek to be a central part
of listeners’ lives through music discovery or by airing familiar favorites; so
we should provide listeners with as much information as possible about the
songs we are playing. You’d be surprised how many people are interested in that
album title data on RDS is relatively easy. There are various approaches, but
for most stations, the easiest is to populate album data in the music library
of the on-air playback automation system. If you maintain your own music
library, this might require long hours by your PD and the programming staff,
but it is well worth the investment in time.
your automation system vendor does not have a field for album title data, push the
company to include it, or use another unused field in the database if
available. Additionally, some automation system vendors make it difficult to
export this data from their systems to your RDS encoder. Push them to resolve
this too. The only way we are going to combat these problems is to make sure
the vendors who supply the industry’s products are responsive to our
If you are implementing RT+ on your
station, don’t forget to include tags for album title once you start displaying
FORMATTING & CAPS
In the early days of RDS, it was the general practice to capitalize
everything, because some radios did not support lowercase characters. I have
never actually seen such a radio. This recommendation is no longer applicable. Most
receivers support both upper- or lowercase characters. Even in those with
displays that show everything in all caps, the capitalization is handled by the
I LOOK AT STATIONS WITH ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IN THEIR RDS DATA AND I FEEL LIKE
THEY ARE YELLING AT ME. I think it looks bad, and your listeners probably
Some receivers have limited displays, so it is best to keep
your RDS text concise and avoid unnecessary phrases such as ‘Now Playing.’
is not to say that I totally disapprove of capitalizing. Use it sparingly. You
might want to emphasize words or show excitement such as “Call NOW and WIN!”)
Your opinion may vary.
SONG FIELD LENGTHS
Another annoyance is the prevalence of music libraries with truncated,
incomplete or inaccurate title/artist/album data. Your PDs and their staffs
need to groom the music libraries to make sure the data is accurate. Your
station’s credibility is on the line.
Also, some automation system vendors
still have legacy designs with short data fields for title/artist/album. If
this is applicable in your case, make sure you let your automation system
vendor know that this needs to be improved.
I was pleased to see that some newer releases of a major automation
system now allow up to 60 characters or more in each of these fields. This is a
great improvement from past designs and I recommend that all automation system
vendors improve the amount of characters allowed in these fields. I have seen
them in the 24–36 range; often these will cause truncation.
lengths were generally acceptable when only the on-air DJ saw the data, but
this information is now used and exported to the eyes of your listeners on
external sources like RDS, HD PAD, Internet streaming, website Now Playing and
other endeavors. It is important we make it look as good and as accurate as
Wish to learn more about the data in these
fields? The National Radio Systems Committee issued guidance in the report “NRSC-R300:
Program Associated Data (PAD) Field Length Study,” in November 2011. Read a
summary of this at radioworld.com/links.
‘NOW PLAYING … BY … ON’
stations add the phrase “Now Playing,” then insert the title of the song, then
“by” followed by the artist name, then “on” and the station name. I discourage
this practice; so does the NRSC-R300 document, and so do many others.
“Now Playing” is redundant. The listener is smart enough to determine that the
station is displaying information about a song; and your station should not
display that information when the song is not
The use of “by” is unnecessary and can
lead to grammatical errors. Say, for example, you have a song where the artist
is a band name such as “The Beatles.” Many programmers omit “The” for reasons
of alphabetizing and organization; but if your station is using “by,” the
resulting display will read “Now Playing Revolution by Beatles on Station.”
Further, in both the Program Service (PS) and RadioText (RT) fields, we
are working with a limited number of characters. In the RT field, we have 64
characters. By adding “Now Playing by on,” we are wasting 22 characters or over
a third of the space for each song. That is valuable real estate better used
for the song’s album title name.
Also, remember that there are many types
of receivers on the marketplace, and some of them have limited screen space. The
receiver in Fig. 2 is an example. Most of the screen is showing “Now Playing”
instead of information regarding the station or song. The receiver displays the
first 22 characters well, and then periodically scrolls the rest of the
information in the RT. Some designs show even fewer.
Using an example from NRSC-R300,
consider a dot-matrix display of 20 characters wide. This display can handle 73
percent of Artist fields in the sample database. However, if “Now Playing” is
prefixed to the transmitted text, the display can handle only 14 percent of
Artist fields before scrolling.
in the PS field, since we are working with only eight characters at a time,
this adds more characters between the station name and song data. NRSC-R300
addresses this in detail and demonstrates through statistics how scarce the
64-characters we have to work with in RDS can be.
recommendation is to remove these unnecessary phrases from your RDS systems.
Your opinions may vary.
DATA, SONG TIMING
that are running delays, whether for HD Radio and/or for profanity, should make
adjustments in their RDS display delays. Some hardware and software products on
the market have this ability. Research this and spend some time “fine-tuning”
it in front of radio receivers.
you ignore the delay adjustment, it is possible that a song’s data could show
up before the song is on the air! If your station starts to play another song,
the new song’s data can be displayed for a period of time while the old song is
still playing, which is also an issue.
GET THE MOST OUT OF RDS
This is one of a series of occasional articles to help you get the most out of RDS. Read them all at: radioworld.com/RDS.
stations running in real-time with no delay, this alignment process does not
apply; the data is sent to the RDS encoder at the same time the song is
changed. Note, as discussed earlier (see “RDS: Optimize RadioText Send Rate,” radioworld.com/RDS), there are
transmission delays associated with the delivery of RadioText, and those can be
adjusted by changing the RT send rate or group sequence of your encoder.
you employ a delay of at least four or five seconds on the analog FM signal,
and if you use the suggested optimized RT send rates, you can couple the new RT
tightly to when the song immediately starts airing.
Next time we’ll discuss additional
common RDS problems and remedies.
Alan Jurison is a senior operations engineer
for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment’s Engineering and Systems Integration
Group. He holds several SBE certifications including CSRE, CBNE, AMD, and DRB.
His opinions are not necessarily those of Clear Channel or Radio World.