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WREK Beefs Up RDS, HD Text Display for Special Program

Adjunct text displayed simultaneously on receivers, Internet streaming players.

WREK(FM) in Atlanta has been using RDS in what it believes is an unusual way to support an audio program this week. WREK is Georgia Tech’s student radio station, and transmits at 91.1 FM in the Atlanta market and also streams its signal over the Internet.

Former Georgia Tech station engineer Chris Campbell told Radio World the station is “hacking” its RDS stream to provide additional dynamic text over receiver displays for both its analog and HD Radio signals as well as its Internet stream.

“I originally was going to just send text straight to the RDS encoder (via UDP), but I quickly realized that our non-FM listeners would not get to properly experience this event,” according to Campbell, who is also a student at the university.

WREK runs its programming playout on Broadcast Electronics’ AudioVault system, and that includes using an RDDI software engine to manage all of the program data flowing through to WREK’s various outputs, including analog FM, HD Radio and Internet streams.

“With the help of alum Jim Evans, who is involved in AudioVault development for BE, we developed a configuration for RDDI that pulls its source text strings from a remote machine,” according to Campbell, who then wrote custom software on that machine that references a script and delivers the script’s text on a schedule defined by timecode markers called out in that script.

The text data itself is not a straight transcription of the words being spoken in the audio program. Rather, the text at times identifies the speakers and dates, at times supports the narrative with extra details.

The audio program and text data are synced in time. Over a 15-minute period each night there’s a large amount of supporting text running via RDS alongside the audio program, instead of a short sequence of repeating text. The program, called “Midnight Bill,” has been airing at midnight since Sunday. It ends tonight.

Updates about what the crew learns about software support are posted on WREK’s announcement page.