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Freesat Radio

  • Andrew Bowden
  • 8 Oct 08, 11:31 AM

Some point in the 1990s the BBC ran a series of on air promotions, telling viewers what this brave new world of digital was all about. A series of TV and radio stars told us that soon all programmes would be made in widescreen, and that we'd be able to see as well as hear radio.

Anyone who has listened to the radio via their Virgin Media or Freeview box will already be seeing their radio and on Tuesday 30 September, we launched our first radio service on the Freesat platform too.


At the minute, the Freesat version appears pretty simple, consisting of a station logo and LiveText - programme related information which is updated as you listen.

It's small - a maximum of 128 characters at any one time - but LiveText is perhaps one of the most challenging feeds that our technical team have to deal with.

The reason for that is the sheer amount of updates that are received. Each station updates its text roughly every 30 seconds - for some stations it's even more frequent.

Of course there's more than one station doing this at once - the same backend system is updating 17 different stations at once on Freesat, with the data coming from two different systems. Naturally each station publishes at a slightly different time, meaning that there is an update somewhere every few seconds.

Once published, the text has to get on air as quickly as possible as the data is time sensitive. The text could be related to a particular song that's playing, or short report that's being broadcast. The LiveText needs to get on screen whilst it's still relevant to what people are listening too! Keeping the time from publish to appearing on air low, is an important metric for all our services, but is most prominent on radio.

Still, once it's all done, it's a great service, providing a variety of background information, news headlines, weather and track information for many of the music stations. But if you'd rather not look at all the stuff we've put all that effort into, don't worry because we always provide an option for you. All our radio services on Freeview, Virgin Media and Freesat offer a screensaver option too!


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