RDS RadioText+ is a not-so-new way to share now-playing data with your FM listeners. Yet, it seems not many stations have enabled it. Let’s take a look at what it is, and how to set it up…

What is RadioText+, And How Is It Different From Normal RadioText?

RadioText is a 64-character message that can be sent via your RDS subcarrier. It’s been around for yonks, and people seem comfortable using it to send song information and positioning statements.

RadioText+ is a tiny add-on to RadioText, which identifies two specific components within that 64-character string. In most cases, this is the Title and Artist of a song.

RadioText is sent out via groups 2A and 2B.

RadioText+ is sent out via any of the ODA (Open Data Application) A-groups.

The RadioText+ ODA Application Identifier is 4BD7 (represented here as hex, as it is in most encoders).

A RadioText+ message consists of eight data elements:

  • Toggle bit
  • Running bit
  • Tag 1 – Content Type
  • Tag 1 – Start Marker
  • Tag 1 – Length Marker
  • Tag 2 – Content Type
  • Tag 2 – Start Marker
  • Tag 2 – Length Marker

Here’s a graphical representation of that data from the EBU’s Technical Review:

RDS RadioText+ ODS Packet Info

Why Do I Need RadioText+?

Not all radios will display the full RadioText 64char message. RadioText+ allows you to concisely show some text, particularly on in-car radios. As most RDS encoders handle it internally, you don’t actually need to send any extra data out of your automation system. It just needs to be enabled.

How Do I Enable RadioText+?

The setup steps are encoder-dependant, but it all follows the following basic steps:

  1. Setup a new ODA Application with Application ID 4BD7
  2. Assign your new ODA to a spare ODA group (e.g. 12A)
  3. Add group 3A to the RDS group sequence
  4. Add your new ODA group (e.g. 12A) to the RDS group sequence
  5. Add your new ODA group (e.g. 12A) to the ODA group sequence

This screenshot shows the setup of a new ODA:

RDS RadioText+ ODA Setup Screenshot

And this screenshot shows a fairly basic group sequence setup:

RDS RadioText+ Group Sequence Screenshot

What Do I Need To Do With My Automation System?

If you’re already sending the title and artist as separate fields to your encoder, you can probably leave your setup as-is. It should work right out of the box.

Update September 2017: I’ve created MetaRadio – software to do the hard work of interfacing your automation system with an RDS Encoder. It supports RadioText+ on many commercially available encoders, and is very easy to setup. It supports RadioText+, even if your automation system doesn’t. Check it out.

If you send one pre-concatenated text string directly to the encoder, you’ll probably need to split it up. Check your encoder’s manual for details.

(For 2wcom, just send separate fields. Also, make sure you get the latest firmware. V3.43 and below do not work. V3.52 works for me)

How Do I Know It’s Working?

Many digital FM Analysers will show you full RDS debug readouts. I used the P175 FM Broadcast Analyser with the RDS Spy software.

Here’s the RDS data output when I set it up for Hope 103.2:

RDS Analyser Output: Hope 103.2

You can see down the bottom of the “Basic RDS Decoder” window the Title and Artist are displayed in separate fields. That’s how we know it works!

Over on the right, you can see the raw output (as hex). Leave this running on your computer for extra cool points. Double points if you can slip in the phrase “hacking the mainframe”. Triple points if your media outlet films you doing this to get b-roll for a cybersecurity news story.

A super-cool computer hacker

I got pretty excited when this new data showed up on a family member’s car: