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What Is RDS (Radio Data System) Radio?

What Is RDS (Radio Data System)

Have you ever noticed a logo resembling an infinity symbol or perhaps the initials RDS displayed on the LCD screen of your radio? You may be wondering what RDS radio is and how it works. Understanding the features and settings of your radio and other devices can give you an overall better experience.

What Is RDS Radio? 

Radio Data System (RDS) is a standard for a type of communication protocol that lets small bits of digital data be added to regular FM radio broadcasts. RDS standardizes the transmission of numerous sorts of information, including time, station identity, and program information. 

Originally used in Europe in the late 1970s, the Radio Data System (aka RDS) was created to give radio listeners a better experience. RDS makes it easier to view what is being played and navigate the channels. Now, RDS is a standard feature of most FM radios and broadcasters across the globe. 

For more information about the history and benefits of using RDS radio and how it works continue reading. 

If you are wondering who to thank for the information being displayed on your radio screen that would be the Europeans. It was Europe who devised the radio data system which quickly spread across the globe and is now standard in nearly any FM receiver.

Know how to Improve FM Signal on Radio with a Single Wire Antenna & Difference between AM and FM Radio Signals.

The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) conceptualized the RDS in the mid-1970s and by the early 1980s, it was introduced to the general public. 

RDS works via a digital 57kHz sub-channel that is attached to each participating FM channel’s frequency. This digital channel carries the codes necessary for transmitting the data that is displayed on the screen of the radio as well as the information needed for autotuning. 

The codes are set up in a minimum of a four-block system which stores and transmits information such as: 

  • Autotune information and settings
  • Genre – Rock, classical, jazz, talk, news, etc. 
  • Saved channel codes for listening out of the transmitting  area
  • Sports scores, news, advertisements, song titles/artists, and other messages
  • The abbreviation and frequency number of the channels
  • TP (traffic program) information that notifies listeners of traffic in the area Stations that support this feature will display TP on the screen. TP can be set to pause CD or AUX audio when there are traffic or weather alerts. 

The benefits of the RDS are primarily convenience driven. The world of radio broadcasting would not come to a screeching halt if RDS was not functional or had never been invented. 

All in all, RDS is simply a way to update and improve the way we broadcast and receive information via radio waves. As technology improves and advances more features will likely be added to the RDS to make our listening experience even better. 

Continue reading for more helpful information about RDS radios.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding RDS

Read below for the answers to some frequently asked questions about the radio data system.

What does RDS mean on a car radio? 

RDS (radio data system) is universal whether it is on your car radio or your home entertainment system. If you have an FM radio it likely comes equipped with RDS to display information about the channel and what is being broadcasted. 

Can RDS Be Turned Off On A Car Radio?

Yes, most car radios have a setting that allows the user to control whether RDS is on or off. Each radio is different but with some searching, you will find the settings menu with many options for programming your stations and other features of the system. 

Can RDS Keep My Station From Changing If I Leave The Local Area? 

RDS does have the ability to keep your station from changing to the clearest option if you leave the listening range. The quality may not be as good and in some cases, you will lose reception completely which is why most people opt for the AF feature which means the radio will automatically switch to a station with better reception. 

Do All Radio Stations Use RDS With Their Broadcasting? 

Nowadays most FM radio stations use RDS in conjunction with their broadcasting, however, there are still some that may use it in which case if you land on that channel it will not have any information displayed except for the frequency number. 

Do smart devices use RDS technology? 

You may be wondering if your smart phone or other smart device uses RDS technology. Regardless of if you are using a smartphone or tablet if it has the capability to play the FM radio then it has RDS technology. This is how the information for the stations and what is being played is transmitted. 

RDS Facilitates Broadcasting and Listening for Everyone 

The inception of RDS expanded and improved the way we broadcast information across radio waves. With autotune, features, and helpful information being displayed, RDS makes it easier for listeners to navigate the channels and find what they want in less time with more clarity. 


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