Radio has been one of the most enduring forms of communication since its inception. FM broadcasting, in particular, has become an integral part of daily life. It has the ability to transmit music, news, and other forms of entertainment to millions of people around the world. However, the process of broadcasting requires a significant amount of energy consumption. The primary reason for this is in the broadcasting chain, transmitters operate uninterruptedly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and continuously at a fixed output power to the antenna.
In the FM chain, transmitters go from a few watts to dozens of kilowatts depending on the coverage area, landscape and radio program content. This large-scale operation as a whole, across the many thousands of networks around the world, is a major contributor to broadcast operating expenditure, while also adding to the environmental impact of the industry on a global level. In parallel, energy costs are soaring across the globe and reducing consumption is increasingly a top priority among radio broadcasters - to lower operating expenses while also answering the urgent need to implement greener solutions.
It is clear that the need for sustainability has become more critical than ever.
So, concretely, how can the FM broadcast industry act towards limiting their impact on the environment?
One step to making FM broadcasting more sustainable is to use energy-efficient transmitters. Modern FM transmitters are designed to be more efficient and consume less power than older models. By using these newer models, broadcasters can reduce their energy consumption while still delivering high-quality signals to listeners. Granted, even when turning to modern transmitters with improved design and performance, there is still a limitation to the physical optimization of components. This brings us to the next step which is to optimize the transmission power.
One such way is for FM broadcasters to turn to innovative software technologies, such as SmartFM, which, for example, can reduce the consumption of FM transmitters by optimizing transmission power; resulting in a substantially higher level of energy savings.
Among the most important developments currently on the market is the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions that employ algorithms allowing broadcasters to cut their energy costs by up to 40% without impacting audio quality or coverage. The savings can reach up to 500 MWh for a 10kW FM transmitter over a decade.
With SmartFM technology, the AI assesses audio content's resistance to perturbations using a specific algorithm and, when the signal is stable, adjusts the transmitter power accordingly. In addition to a direct reduction of power usage, this ‘energy-management’ leads to multiple cascading benefits, including reduced cooling requirements, decreased maintenance needs and extended transmitter lifespan.
This approach also significantly impacts environmental sustainability and helps organizations transition towards a more sustainable future.
The momentum behind the adoption of AI is growing. Last year, for example, there was a significant step toward national FM broadcast decarbonization in Germany with the deployment of AI technology across 800 FM transmitters. The technology is being adopted by various public radio networks including Deutschland Radio, RBB, WDR and NDR, with initial feedback from the first batch of users consistently positive, confirming that the AI system offers energy savings without impacting audio quality or coverage.
As these technologies mature, it is clear that the scope for further improvement and adoption of innovative technology is enormous. For broadcasters and their listeners, the implementation of these smart technologies represents a win-win for energy efficiency and environmental performance.
Alongside technology improvements, FM broadcasters can also look beyond the actual impact their FM technology has on sustainability, to also improve the energy sourcing of their FM stations. For example, they can turn to renewable energy sources likes solar panels to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources. They can also adopt energy monitoring systems which enables them to identify areas where they can make their operations more efficient.
With pressure growing to create a more sustainable industry, those organizations that act decisively to minimize energy consumption and emissions are ideally placed to succeed in an era where stakeholders feel empowered to force positive change.