Radio Data System, or RDS, is a communications protocol standard for embedding small amounts of digital information in conventional FM radio broadcasts. RDS standardises several types of information transmitted, including time, station identification and programme information.
Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS) is the official name used for the U.S. version
of RDS. The two standards are only slightly different.
Content and implementation
The following information fields are normally contained in the RDS data:
- AF (alternative frequencies)
- This allows a receiver to re-tune to a different frequency providing the same station when the first signal becomes too weak (e.g., when moving out of range). This is often utilized in car stereo systems.
- CT (clock time)
- Can synchronize a clock in the receiver or the main clock in a car. Due to transmission vagaries, CT can only be accurate to within 100 ms of UTC.
- EON (enhanced other networks)
- Allows the receiver to monitor other networks or stations for traffic programmes, and automatically temporarily tune into that station.
- PI (programme identification)
- This is the unique code that identifies the station. Every station receives a specific code with a country prefix. In the US, PI is determined by applying a formula to the station's call sign.
- PS (programme service)
- This is simply an eight-character static display that represents the call letters or station identity name. Most RDS capable receivers display this information and, if the station is stored in the receiver's presets, will cache this information with the frequency and other details associated with that preset.
- PTY (programme type)
- This coding of up to 31 pre-defined programme types (e.g., in Europe: PTY1 News, PTY6 Drama, PTY11 Rock music) allows users to find similar programming by genre. PTY31 seems to be reserved for emergency announcements in the event of natural disasters or other major calamities.
- REG (regional)
- This is mainly used in countries where national broadcasters run "region-specific" programming such as regional opt-outs on some of their transmitters. This functionality allows the user to "lock-down" the set to their current region or let the radio tune into other region-specific programming as they move into the other region.
- RT (radio text)
- This function allows a radio station to transmit a 64-character free-form textual information that can be either static e.g. station slogans or in sync with the programming such as the title and artist of the currently playing song.
- TA, TP (traffic announcement, traffic programme)
- The receiver can often be set to pay special attention to this flag and, for example, stop the tape/pause the CD or retune to receive a traffic bulletin. The TP flag is used to allow the user to find only those stations that regularly broadcast traffic bulletins whereas the TA flag is used to stop the tape or raise the volume during a traffic bulletin.
- TMC (Traffic Message Channel)
- Digitally encoded traffic information. Not all RDS equipment supports this. Often available for Automotive navigation systems. In many countries only encrypted data is broadcast, and so a subscription and appropriate decoder is required to use.
As far as implementation is concerned, most car stereos will support at least AF, EON, REG, PS and TA/TP.
- More expensive car stereos will offer TMC, RT and / or PTY, perhaps with "NEWS" override.
- Home systems, especially hi-fi receivers, will mainly support functions like PS, RT and PTY.
The following table lists the RDS and RBDS Program Type (PTY) codes and their meanings:
PTY code RDS Program type (EU) RBDS Program type (North America) 0 No programme type or undefined No program type or undefined 1 News News 2 Current affairs Information 3 Information Sports 4 Sport Talk 5 Education Rock 6 Drama Classic rock 7 Culture Adult hits 8 Science Soft rock 9 Varied Top 40 10 Pop music Country 11 Rock music Oldies 12 Easy listening Soft 13 Light classical Nostalgia 14 Serious classical Jazz 15 Other music Classical 16 Weather Rhythm and blues 17 Finance Soft rhythm and blues 18 Children’s programmes Language 19 Social affairs Religious music 20 Religion Religious talk 21 Phone-in Personality 22 Travel Public 23 Leisure College 24 Jazz music Unassigned 25 Country music Unassigned 26 National music Unassigned 27 Oldies music Unassigned 28 Folk music Unassigned 29 Documentary Weather 30 Alarm test Emergency test 31 Alarm Emergency
The later RBDS standard made no attempt to match the original RDS plan, therefore several identical radio formats were given different numbers, including jazz, weather, sports, and rock. Other similar formats such as varied/college and phone-in/talk are also mismatched. This is mainly a problem for portable radios taken overseas.Scrolling Program Service messages are illegal in the U.K. and expressly forbidden by the RDS standards for all countries because of the potential of distracting drivers on the road and causing problems with receiver memory stores. Scrolling messages are, however, widely used in mainland Europe and are common in the U.S.