ASIA'S first fully computerised radio station went on air from Clearwater Bay on March 30. Advances in the storage of digital music have brought about the birth of a station like no other in the territory when it comes to the technology it uses. With only six full-time staff and an equipment rack the size of a largish wardrobe, STAR Radio broadcasts 24 hours a day via satellite. While this in itself is very impressive, with the addition of more computer power and the launch of AsiaSat 2 later this year, it will be able to broadcast 12 stations simultaneously without requiring additional space. Digitalisation is the key to STAR Radio's ability to broadcast multiple stations with minimal space requirements. While many radio stations have been using digital broadcast techniques for some time, STAR is perhaps the first in the world to embrace 'cut and paste radio' so wholeheartedly. The process begins when music is taken from compact disc and recorded on to hard drives via the Windows-based programme Audiovault. Added to the library of music titles are station identifiers, advertisements and even DJ voice breaks. Using MPEG2 compression at a ratio of 3.2:1, each minute of audio occupies 2.4MG. With a total of 60.3 gigabytes of formatted storage, the system can hold 440 hours of programming. The system is instructed in which order to broadcast the various segments and it then blends together the music, advertisements and DJs to create radio. Once started, the system has the capacity to run for two-and-a-half weeks before it has to repeat any of the sequence. The falling cost of technology was a key factor in STAR Radio's choice of broadcasting method. General manager, Mike Mackay, said that the original plan was to bring European-based Sky Radio to Hong Kong and then re-broadcast it to Asia. However, the advent of RAID array disk technology coupled with the Audiovault software made it more cost effective to set up a digital station from scratch. STAR Radio is broadcasting only one programme using the spare audio subcarriers on STAR TV's transmissions. However, the launch of Asiasat 2 will see the use of audio compression enabling STAR Radio to broadcast many stations tailor-made for different markets. It is here that their system will show its true potential. Mr MacKay says that adding minimal equipment to their PC-based set-up can raise capacity to up to thirty stations broadcasting simultaneously. The aim is to have stations across Asia receiving STAR's customised channel via satellite and re-broadcasting the signal. Using similar software to STAR Radio, affiliate stations can use a PC to co-ordinate insertion of their own time checks, weather and news. Should a station want to change the type of music or even the language of the broadcast, cutting and pasting at Clearwater Bay can be made to produce an entirely different radio station. Although a recent convert to total digitalisation, Mr MacKay sees the way to further advances in the medium. With music now becoming available on Internet, he can see a future for 'radio on demand over the net on a pay-per-listen basis'. The only problem is: will DJs still be called DJs?