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Ask MPR Mailbag

September 15, 2006

Can you display classical music information on my radio's information screen?

I noticed during your fund drive that you were able to have the phone number to call scroll across the radio. Also, commercial stations frequently indicate graphically the artist and the song being performed.

It would be very nice for classical music on MPR to also be identified visually while it is being played. I think this would be a nice enhancement that your member/audience would appreciate. Why not?

Minneapolis, MN

Dear Nora, the technology is called the Radio Data System, or RDS. RDS sends a digital signal that is embedded in a radio transmission. This allows RDS-enabled receivers to display the name or call letters of the station you're tuned into. On some stations you can even see the title of the music selection scroll across the display.

All three of our services send at least some RDS information out with their signals, but only The Current includes the name of the artist and the selection being played. This is because The Current uses newer software that watches what's being played and automatically updates the message on your receiver.

However, our classical music service is still kickin' it old-school. Announcers play CDs in a bank of CD players -- a bit old-fashioned these days. The only ways to change the RDS message on our classical service would be if someone manually typed in the new information each time a new selection started.

During fund drives, we type in that phone number we all know so well

-- 1-800-227-2811 --

and it stays there until the drive is over.

We're hoping to upgrade the classical music handling system in the near future so that we can include more information than simply the station call letters.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services