Riding the Bandwidth: Producing for Digital Radio

Article excerpt

riding the bandwidth: Producing for Digital Radio. Rafael Oei. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2005. 256 pp. $22.00 pbk.

Digital radio.

* What is it?

* How should you produce content for it?

* What will it mean for the future of broadcasting?

The questions are intriguing, and readers in search of answers will find points to ponder in Rafael Oei's new book, riding the bandwidth: Producing for Digital Radio.

Oei, a graduate of the University of Warwick in England, has a background that includes studies and work in theatre, radio, and film. He first explored the digital radio landscape in a 2002 book, Borderless Bandwidth: DNA of Digital Radio. In his new book Oei shifts his focus from explaining what digital radio is to explaining how content for it should be produced.

riding the bandwidth focuses primarily on DAB Eureka-147. DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting. Eureka is the name of the international consortium assembled to develop worldwide DAB standards. The project that initiated the DAB system now in place turned out to be Eureka's 147th technical project, hence DAB Eureka-147.

DAB's digital broadcast signal is received by stand-alone receivers and by receivers connected to personal computers. Changing the analog reality of oneway, sound-only broadcasts, DAB Eureka147 enables audience members to interact with pictures, information, links, and archives. The idea, Oei says, is to provide people with the power to personally alter programmed content. Thus, formerly passive radio listeners would be able to function as "co-producer consumers."

How do you produce digital audio broadcast content? Except for the interactive components, Oei says, you produce it pretty much the same way you would produce analog radio. Indeed, Oei believes the best way for students to prepare to edit in a virtual electronic environment is for them to start out doing manual dub and splice editing of magnetic tape using open reel tape machines and razor blades and then to work their way up the technological food chain. Oei's book provides stepby-step guidance for their quests, offering lessons grounded in the basics.

This new technology's growth has been slow. The first digital audio broadcast system, Oei says, went online in Germany in the mid-1990s. Singapore followed suit in 1999. Since then, Oei says, England and the Netherlands have "produced digital broadcast services with much agony." Other countries, Oei says, "remain cautious and are slowly providing similar services."

Oei's book does not chart the growth of digital radio in the United States, but the National Association of Broadcasters notes that it began in 2002 after the Federal Communications Commission approved technology for digital AM and FM broadcasting. …