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Engineers Explore PAD Implementation

Just when engineering staffs have gotten used to implementing radio data system information, along comes HD Radio with its program-associated data.

Just when engineering staffs have gotten used to implementing radio data system information, along comes HD Radio with its program-associated data. Leading the way in testing different uses for PAD has been public radio; several stations and equipment providers have published reports of their experiences.

KQED(FM) Director of Engineering Daniel Mansergh will present the technical session “Practical Implementation of PAD (PSD)” at The NAB Radio Show on Sept. 26, 11:30 a.m.–noon, on how his station is using PAD for projects beyond the usual song data. The San Francisco station sends three data streams: a PAD information stream, of which a subset is sent to its analog FM RDS; a stream with information for iTunes; and an MP3 data set.

KQED is a news-intensive public station with local and network shows. The station created an integrated workflow to craft the outcome of information sent via PAD. Program scripts, ContentDepot messaging and news copy make their way through the system, with editors creating the final product. Shows and topics can be “forward-promoted” with PAD, using the same manually created “cards” written for on-air hosts.

Convention attendees can sample a more conventional use of PAD by tuning their HD radios to WFAE(FM) while in Charlotte. An early adopter of HD broadcasting, WFAE uses PAD in the more traditional sense with its HD2 stream, which airs the XPoNential Triple A format. It uses Broadcast Electronics’ TRE (The Radio Experience) software to display song titles and artist data, which are displayed much in the same way on XM or Sirius receivers. Info is provided by syndicating station WXPN(FM) in Philadelphia, taken from its Web site and reproduced for WFAE in an automated process. The start-up cost for WFAE’s current implementation of PAD is about $3,000. Engineer Jobie Sprinkle says they have no plans to dedicate staff to the process.

Holding a middle ground is WUSF(FM) in Tampa. The station uses its HD2 channel to re-air its main signal’s programming and plans to use PAD to forward-promote programs, while offering traditional RDS information during classical music including composer, conductor and orchestra. It uses Prophet’s NexGen system to automate the process via a Harris FlexStar importer. In testing the system, staff found that the PAD link had to be re-established if the importer was restarted, a bug in software that the most recent update has fixed.

According to an HD Radio guide offered by Broadcast Electronics, the required bandwidth for PAD is relatively small, 400 bps as compared to the 1.411 Mbps required for good-quality audio. Most automation providers have the basics in place with RDS modules to provide the HD information and have touted the possibilities of using PAD to generate revenue.

There are also more immediate uses of PAD. For instance, ENCO’s PADapult offers an easy-to-understand interface that allows real-time data to be sent manually to the Web, the HD signal, the analog RDS and billboards. This allows stations to use what normally would be a promotional venue to serve the public with weather bulletins or Amber Alerts. PADapult is a standalone product that can integrate with other automation systems.

Attendees can learn more about PAD, its uses and implementation at The NAB Radio Show. Mansergh will detail projects that actually transmit PAD through the air chain to listeners and will include details on data servers and the integration of PAD into a station’s automation system.