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Looking Good on the Digital Dashboard

It takes planning, strategy and a good radio

In the recent NAB webcast “Radio’s Future in the Car: Best Practices for the Digital Dash,” the third and final panelist, broadcast consultant Glynn Walden, focused on getting the data correct in the automation system, as this, he says, is where many of the problems begin. It starts with having a good radio at the station to see your digital display. Walden recommends the Spark radio, which can be purchased for around $125.

A legacy automation system that’s been in service for many years may have collected a lot of bad data and present other problems, according to Walden. The best solution is to scrub that data with an outboard cleaning service. It will remove spelling errors, extraneous data, and add album art. He recommends TagStation, which is a free service.

On the engineering side, setting up a station’s RDS encoder with the proper PI (Program Identification) code is important. Walden notes that a surprising number of stations leave the default code in place. PI displays the name of the station, and not changing this, perhaps at installation, means the name of the fictitious place-holding station created by the manufacturer will show up on the listener’s screen. Following that, next enter the correct PTY (Program Type) for the station’s format. Finally, Walden says setting the RDS injection level for 4–5% should give reliable coverage throughout a station’s coverage area.

Other panelists referenced two documents that the NAB has made available online from its Digital Dashboard project. The Digital Dashboard Best Practices Report is a 23-page document which provides background information on the project, some results from the digital dashboard “audit” that NAB conducted in Grand Rapids, Mich., Charlotte, N.C., and Philadelphia, along with a discussion of the areas that broadcasters need to focus on to improve the consumer experience with radio in the car.

The NAB Digital Dashboard Recommended Best Practices is a two-page document that summarizes, for radio station programming and engineering departments, key steps broadcasters can take that when followed, should result in a dashboard appearance that is useful and pleasing to listeners, and will support a more consistent user experience across the radio dial.