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RDS changes: your questions answered

On Tuesday 31 March changes will be made to the way you listen to BBC Local Radio on an RDS radio. You'll find answers to some frequently asked questions here.

What’s happening to my BBC Local Radio station?

If you have an RDS radio and your BBC Local Radio station stored as a preset, then on the morning of Tuesday 31 March you'll need to manually tune to the station again by finding the right frequency and re-saving it as a preset.

If you don't, some RDS radios may display an error message or tune to a different station.  You can find frequency information for your BBC Local Radio station by clicking on the link in the top-right corner of this page.

Are you changing the frequencies, then?

No.  The frequencies and transmitters stay as they are at the moment.  The only change is to the bit of RDS information which tells your radio what service it is tuned to.  So if you tune by finding the frequency, you're not affected at all.

Why are you doing this?

We're changing the way that the RDS information is sent.  At the moment, BBC Local Radio stations are grouped into rather large families and most RDS radios tune seamlessly between them.

This is great if you're travelling a long way and want to listen to BBC Local Radio all the way.  But we know many people find this means they can't always stay with the station they want to listen to without the radio re-tuning to something else.  What we're doing is breaking the groups up so your radio should now stick with your choice of BBC Local Radio station and shouldn't re-tune to anything else.

What is RDS?  Is it the same as digital?

RDS is the radio data system, a technology invented in the late 1980s which allows some data to be broadcast alongside an FM radio station.  This data is used to display the station name, to re-tune between transmitters for the station, and flag up travel bulletins.

It’s not the same as DAB digital radio, which is an entirely different type of transmission.  Digital radio offers crackle-free reception and a much wider range of services.

However, because all RDS radios have a display of some sort, some of the very oldest have the word 'digital' printed on the case which can be a bit confusing – but this is just referring to the display, not to the way it receives radio services.

I don't know if have an RDS radio.  How do I check?

The simplest way is to think how you tune to the radio.  If you have to remember to go to a particular frequency on FM when you tune in, then you almost certainly haven't got an RDS radio.  If you tune by pressing a numbered button - and the radio displays the name of the station when tuned in - then you have an RDS radio.

Almost every car radio is an RDS radio and increasingly new radios for the home have RDS in them as well.  If you have a dual-band FM and DAB digital radio receiver, then it is likely to use RDS on FM as well.

Most RDS radios show the RDS logo somewhere: either on the case or display, or in the packaging or manual.  Look for a pair of intersecting circles, shaped like an eight on its side.

Do I need to re-tune before Tuesday 31 March?

No.  The new information will only be being broadcast from the morning of 31 March, so if you re-tune before then, you'll have to re-tune again.  It should be as simple as when you switch your radio on in the morning, you'll just need to go to the frequency and re-store it.

I don't know how to re-store the presets on my radio.  Can you help?

For many – but not all radios – storing a preset is as simple as pressing and holding the button you want it to be on.  Other radios need you to press a 'preset' button first.  As there are so many different types of radio, we're afraid it's not possible to offer individual assistance.  If you get stuck, your best option is to consult your radio's manual.

I've tried re-storing my preset but it doesn't seem to have taken effect.  What now?

We know some radios in some makes of cars – particularly, in our experience, Peugeots – need to have the preset entirely cleared before they'll store the new information correctly.

The trick is to store something else in the preset first.  So, for example, store BBC Radio 2 (on FM between 88 and 91) into the preset, and then immediately find your BBC Local Radio station and store that again into the same preset.

I haven't got an RDS radio; am I affected?

No – this will have no effect on you.

I listen on DAB digital radio, on medium wave, or on cable; am I affected?

No – this will have no effect on you.

I listen to a booster transmitter in my local area; am I affected?

Yes – if you're listening on FM using an RDS radio, then you're affected, no matter which frequency you usually use to listen to your BBC Local Radio station.

Are you changing the station?  Are the presenters going to change?

No.  All we're doing is making a slight modification to the RDS information – everything else is staying just as it is at the moment.

Does this mean that the travel bulletins from BBC Local Radio won't interrupt the national radio stations any more?

No.  There’s no change being made to the way that travel bulletins are signalled.

I can't get my choice of BBC Local Radio station where I live / my coverage isn't very good – will this sort things out?

No, we're afraid not.  We're not making any changes to the location of the transmitters or the coverage they provide at this time.  This change is just to the RDS information that's transmitted alongside the signal; it doesn't change the signal itself.

You can always find your BBC Local Radio station live on the internet:

last updated: 23/03/2009 at 14:05
created: 19/03/2009

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