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BBC’s Fry: Digital in the AM Band Is the Way Forward

BBC distribution exec says broadcasters can achieve reduced operating costs and deliver higher value services to their audience

The author of this commentary is director distribution of the BBC World Service.

Nigel Fry
Nigel Fry

In response to Frank Karkota’s commentary “No to Digital AM”:

The AM radio band represents a very valuable resource to society and to broadcasters. It offers the opportunity to transmit programs over large areas and well beyond line of sight.

In the present age, digital technologies present a threat and an opportunity for radio broadcasters. Digital technologies generate radio frequency noise that degrades the audio performance of analog AM services (drive past an ATM listening to AM radio and you’ll know what I mean) but also an opportunity to transform the quality of service delivered in the AM band.

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) supports such a transformation. It not only makes the transmitted signal more resilient but allows much lower power level to be used to cover the same area as an analog service. At the same time it delivers additional information to the listener enhancing the service that can be offered and making services accessible by brand and not just frequency.

Broadcasters can achieve reduced operating costs and deliver higher value services to their audience, which remain free to consume (this is important in many markets where the population cannot afford to access internet services). Commercial receiver solutions are being worked on and being improved all the time. There is an effective aftermarket solution (to retrofit in existing vehicles), and the latest information can be found at

We have recently presented improvements to the open source DREAM software that allow it to work with the readily available Raspberry Pi device. As such it provides an entry-level receiver ideally suited to the hobbyist.

We live in a digital world, and kids today are equipping themselves with the skills and tools needed to live in it and shape it. Broadcasters can take many benefits from that same technology, and we owe it to society to continue to use frequency bands that support audiences remote from or not linked to other forms of connectivity and not allow populations to be constrained by line-of-sight services. DRM digital transmissions in the AM band are the way forward.

[Read more articles and commentaries about digital radio trends and technologies.]