Thai radio will migrate from analogue to digital broadcast technology in coming years, as the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) plans to start digital radio trials late this year.
Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, said it is studying guidelines for the switch to digital, which is expected to be complete before the trial around year-end.
A digital system should improve audio quality and eliminate signal-fading in mobile environments for a given spectrum. It will also add capacity to support 100-plus radio stations in each province.
For decades, the country had no organisation to regulate the broadcasting industry, causing problems for the radio industry, especially community radio.
The broadcasting committee will organise a conference to gather opinions from existing radio stations in March.
"The opinions will pinpoint a good direction for the digital radio transition," said Col Natee.
The road map will start with technology and technique conditions, which should be appropriate and suit local environments.
Radio advertising is declining but the digital transformation will increase the number of radio stations greatly, meaning broadcasters will face higher competition to draw ads. However, online radio is gaining popularity due to the lower costs.
Col Natee believes radio will not disappear easily from Thailand in the future because people in rural areas still listen to it for information.
Digitisation is expected to solve community radio's technical problems. Most community stations are not legally operated and the operators buy substandard broadcast equipment, so their signals can be easily agitated by aircraft radio, he said.
There are over 8,000 community radio stations nationwide.
"Australia broadcasts many radio stations digitally. It's a good example for Thailand, which has high radio demand but limited supply," said Col Natee.
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Writer: Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn