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AIR joins DRM for live Commonwealth broadcast

MUMBAI: All India Radio would be carrying forward its association with Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) by live broadcasting the 2010 Commonwealth games to be held in Delhi.

AIR is contemplating to have seven and half hours of live broadcast during the games. In a recent meeting with DRM Chairperson Ruxandra Obreja and Project Director Vineeta Dwivedi earlier this month, Information and Broadcast minsiter Ambika Soni had reportedly stressed on the need for affordable DRM receivers for quick and efficient take-up of the technology.

The ministry believes DRM can become a good tool to start new digital broadcasts for national and international audiences. Currently, AIR has a regular DRM service of 8 hours of daily DRM SW broadcast.

Analog Devices India senior program manager Subrahmanyam believes it is the right time to launch DRM from the Commonwealth perspective. “There is very limited internet connectivity in India, so getting scores or data about Commonwealth games on radio is a feasible option. Equipped with DRM, listeners can get instantaneous data on radio. This transmission can be available not only on MW and SW bands but can also be transmitted over longer distances. So AIR broadcast can be transmitted outside the country as well.”

Through DRM, the data on Commonwealth games would be transmitted on a digital radius rather than the conventional AM mode. “The transmission being digital is lesser prone to errors, interference, external noise etc. Apart from the audio, you can also get the data on Commonwealth games with feature like Journaline on DRM device.”

One of the major impediments for DRM plans in India is the absence of DRM devices in the country. “Today AIR has only one transmitter in the country so; the manufacturers are hesitant to commence production unless the numbers of transmitters increase. Manufacturers are also gauging the risk involved in terms of investment of resources if AIR gives up on DRM transmission. They need to be assured that the DRM transmissions will continue for them to step into production.” Manufacturing the devices in India would reduce the device price as importing it increases it cost in Indian markets. The current DRM transmission for AIR broadcasts the same content owned by AIR for its AM transmission. This restricts the need for consumers in Indian markets to buy DRM digital radio when conventional AM radio is available at a much lower price.

Subrahmanyam points out that compared to the receivers that existed in Phase A, the prices have been cut down by almost half its original cost. “In phase I, the receivers were costly at 800 dollars, in Phase II the prices came down to almost half at 350 dollars and the target for 2010 is to have receivers costing around 80 dollars. For Indian markets, the target is to make it available at Rs 2000-3000.”

Talking about the Indian market, Subrahmanyam foresees, “The potential in India is immense because the number of radio listeners in the country is huge. But it completely depends on the content; it has to be interesting and compelling for consumers to buy this product. Indians would prefer DRM as it would provide stereophonic sound on SW band and tuning option for stations from other cities.”

DRM also plans to work in tandem with FM radio broadcasters and have conceived DRM+. It is an extension of DRM 30 (which functions upto 30 MHz) to cover the VHs regions. “With DRM +, radio broadcasters can transmit from four stations instead of the current one from a given frequency. So, your licensing cost becomes 1/4th, production and content cost remains more or less the same but the advertising revenues increase with the number of stations.” DRM has approached the Information and Broadcasting Ministry who might consider migration of FM frequencies on DRM+.

DRM+ technology is suited for countries of India, Brazil, Russia, China because of geographical location and larger population can be covered with lesser number of transmitters. Compared to last year, AIR started regular transmissions on DRM mode regularly in January this year. With increase in number of transmitters, AIR will start having a wider coverage. AIR has elaborate plans for transmission in the next five years to cover the complete country and DRM has an important role to play.

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