Listening to the radio may never be the same again. The BBC and a host of commercial stations are looking to launch interactive multimedia services for some of their most popular programmes.
At a recent presentation in London, the BBC set out its plans for digital audio broadcasting (DAB) and a gave a glimpse of how some of those services may look and sound. They included radio programmes incorporating sound, text, graphics and still pictures which will be accessible from a PC.
DAB represents a major step forward in the broadcast industry. Not only does it vastly improve the quality of radio reception because the signal is digital rather than analogue, but it also allows broadcasters to extend their range of programmes to include text and data services.
At the conference, the BBC demonstrated an "experimental" multimedia radio programme. Under the working title Chaos, the demo was based on the Radio 4 science series Flashpoints and featured an audio transmission with still pictures and text. The BBC envisages such services being accessible from a PC fitted with special DAB receivers. Such receivers are already available in Germany.
The BBC has begun running pilot DAB services alongside its Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Live analogue transmissions. It claims to be able to cover 35% of the UK population with the service at present, with a plan to extend that to 60% by spring 1998.
Senior executives at the corporation were due to meet this week to discuss the plans in more detail.
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