After successful digitization of cable television in India the ministry of information and broadcasting is making efforts to speed up the process of digitizing radio in India. All India Radio, which is one of the largest media organizations in the world, is being transformed to give listeners an enhanced experience and superior audio quality.{mosimage}

This process involves changes at all stages of different departments in radio stations. Program production facilities, transmission facilities, and uplink stations will be upgraded and digitized to ensure good-quality content reaches most of the country with added interactive data services.

So let us look at the key areas where major changes have to be made and their benefits.

Production facilities. On-air and production studios will have digital mixing consoles and computerized HDD-based audio workstations with inter-connectivity between equipment in digital formats, where possible. Formats like AES, SPDIF, and ADAT are industry standard but new network-based formats like Livewire and Dante are getting popular day by day. With these digital formats, audio signal is more immune to degradation and noise is reduced drastically. With wider dynamic range, users can experience CD-like quality on their new digital radio sets.

Archival facilities. Being a more than 60-year old radio broadcaster, AIR has a massive collection of archives, which is currently stored on analog audio tapes and similar media. This material will be converted to digital format with the highest-possible quality conversion rates and stored on CDs or HDDs. Once the content is digital, multiple stations can share the same content with one another over network avoiding duplication. Once digital, any of the archive material can be played back in non-linear fashion giving a quick access. For example, one can skip to fifth track on a CD instantly whereas for a tape, one has to wait till the tape reaches that point.

News gathering. Digitization and automation of news gathering, news production, and news broadcast activity is already implemented in a few stations and will be extended further in several regional stations of AIR. News automation software, computer server, workstations, etc., will be provided enabling complete newsroom automation in many stations. Since this digital solution uses latest technology and can be connected to network, one can easily share news stories and content with other locations in real time. With a number of editing and processing tools available, one can quickly clone and edit the news story without destroying the original recording.

Transmission. AIR traditionally does analog transmission but with growing industrialization, the signal quality is deteriorating and there are noise issues. Transmission in AM bands will be digitized by inducting high-power DRM transmitters at various places. Digital radio mondiale (DRM) is a set of digital audio broadcasting technologies designed to work over the bands currently used for analog radio broadcasting. The DRM broadcasting system is specifically designed to allow the new digital transmission to coexist with the current analog broadcasts and switch easily between digital and analog broadcasts. This will also reduce transmission energy costs.

Uplink. Uplinking facility used for distribution of programs through satellite will be digitized by augmenting the existing capital earth stations with digital uplinks. Apart from new digital captive earth stations (up-links), digital downlink facilities will also be installed at various stations.

Although it will still take several years to implement and complete the digitization process, it carries many positive changes for an end user. With new digital technology, Indian listeners across the country can have access to more content choice with improved sound quality, as well as access to digital features including labels for programs, electronic program guide, text-based news service, and automatic disaster warning in multiple languages.