Internet radio

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As Internet radio (also web radio ) refers to Internet-based a range of radio programs . The transmission usually takes place as streaming audio ; Appropriate streaming clients are required for use .

Internet radio studio by RauteMusik.FM
A look into the studio


As early as 1995–1996, the then newly founded Info-Radio Berlin-Brandenburg organized by ORB and SFB together with the Technical University of Berlin organized the streaming service Info-Radio on Demand .

The SWF carried out a similar project . Part of the SWF broadcast archive has been digitized here. By mid-1995, there were already over 190,000 hours of spoken and musical contributions.

The media public became aware of streaming media around 1998, in the heyday of the new economy . It used a kind of automatic forced access, for example numerous radio stations began to stream parts of their programs simply because others were doing it too. At the same time, independent web radios were founded. was an example of this.

At the end of 2002, in the midst of the crisis in commercial Internet use, America Online launched the exclusive radio program Broadband Radio @ AOL for its broadband customers; AOL did not use the streaming technology of the strategic partner Real Networks , but used an in-house development programmed by Nullsoft called Ultravox ; Nullsoft was taken over by AOL in 1999 together with

As in the US press, there are also cases in radio broadcasting in which Internet stations were founded by employees of established broadcasters who have been discontinued. Radio multicult2.0 was created in Berlin in response to the closure of the RBB station Radio Multikulti .


*) = More details in the chapter "Distribution and reach"

As with the terrestrial radio stations, many branches and types of music are served. However, the very inexpensive option of operating an Internet radio compared to terrestrial broadcasting alone enables a greater variety of special- interest channels for all kinds of musical styles and verbal contributions. The number of web radio stations that can be received on an Internet connection runs into the tens of thousands, but only a few “stations” can be used at the same time *). Most terrestrial radio stations also broadcast their signal over the internet. In addition, there are many pure web radio providers. If a provider sends over the Internet, its signal can be received at (almost) every Internet connection worldwide *).

In April 2010, according to a study by the Bavarian State Center for New Media (BLM), there were around 2700 German web radios. Of these, 80 percent can only be received on the Internet (Internet-only offers), the others are mainly live streams from FM radio stations (simulcast streams). Compared to 2009, according to the BLM study "Webradiomonitor 2010", the number rose by over 700 stations. Since 2006 (with 450 internet stations at the time) the number of providers in Germany has grown by around 56 percent per year.

The "Webradiomonitor 2016" (publisher: Bayerische Landeszentrale für neue Medien (BLM), Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V. and Association of Private Broadcasting and Telemedia e.V. - VPRT) determined a total of 2,453 web radios. Of these, 73 percent could only be received on the Internet (online-only offers). The live streams of the FM radio stations (simulcast streams) and their online sub-brands accounted for 17 and 10 percent respectively. The annual survey also showed that the number of pure web radios has declined since its high in 2011 (3,055 offers) and has stabilized at a little more than 2,400 offers since 2015, while the number of other online audio offers (user Generated radio streams or curated playlists) has increased continuously over the past few years.


According to the ARD / ZDF online study 2010, 8% of Internet surfers listen to web radio weekly via live stream, 26.6% at least rarely. In 2003 it was 5.3% and 17.6% respectively. At the same time, the share of DSL / broadband users rose from 24% to 70% between 2003 and 2008. In 2006, more than 20 million people across Europe were listening to web radio. In the second quarter of 2014, according to the Association of Private Broadcasting and Telemedia e. V. (VPRT) 52 million sessions per month. According to the 2017 web radio monitor of the Bavarian State Center for New Media (BLM), the Federal Association of the Digital Economy (BVDW) and the Association of Private Broadcasting and Telemedia (VPRT), the use of Internet radio and online audio offers such as podcasts continues to grow rapidly. According to this, 71 percent listen to live streams from existing radio stations ("simulcast"), 28 percent listen to pure online radio and 17 percent listen to podcasts .

First recycler

Native internet channels

As Internet Broadcaster (English Internet broadcaster ) is called an Internet "channels" which either sends only the Internet or at least performs its primary exploitation on the Internet and the program sells parts then later to other stations ( syndication ).

Internet Broadcasting (English Internet broadcasting ) differs from conventional broadcasters, especially by the smaller compared to conventional stations receiver number since the majority still predominantly terrestrial receivable broadcast stations used to be. In addition, the broadcasters are i. d. Usually, with their limited marketing budget, they are unable to make their own station better known in the flood of competition from several thousand others.

One example are university broadcasters who broadcast their programs over the Internet. In these cases, the term web radio is also used synonymously for the provider or the program.

In addition, there are mostly web radios run by private individuals.

Secondary recycler

Regular radio stations

The online radio is used by numerous radio stations as an alternative transmission technology for a secondary exploitation of their programs. The reception should also be made possible for listeners who cannot receive the program terrestrially , via cable or satellite .

Radio on the Internet, for example, is offered by German public broadcasters who want to reach regular listeners outside of their broadcasting area, such as emigrants or students on a stay abroad.

Almost all free radios and open channels also stream their entire program on the Internet, since terrestrially they are generally only equipped with very low transmission power and can therefore only be received in a very limited area.

The transmission of current programs is often supplemented by the archiving and provision of earlier broadcasts ( audio-on-demand or on-demand streaming ).

Numerous German-speaking radio stations offer at least parts of their programs via live streaming over the Internet. In the pursuit of market share, almost all program providers see it as essential to have an Internet presence on the transmission route. However, this can lead to a financial dilemma that regular radio with its high basic costs is particularly exposed to due to the transmitter networks and the additional new challenges posed by transmission on the Internet.

Internet radio versus conventional radio

Internet radio is fundamentally different from traditional radio :

Distribution and reach

In contrast to conventional broadcasting, which uses radio waves to reach an unlimited number of recipients within its transmission area , the Internet limits the maximum number of recipients that can be simultaneously received by the available bandwidth . Possible solutions are multicast streaming and the use of special streaming services or providers. Households that replace several conventional radios with Internet radios can receive between seven and 112 radio stations at the same time with a DSL connection . Internet connections with a bandwidth of less than 128 kb / s do not even allow reception from a single transmitter that achieves the quality of conventional broadcasting. If the bandwidth is used by broadcast content, there may be losses in other Internet-specific applications. The load on the networks is, however, less serious than from the video streaming offers, which go into the megabit / s range with increasing image quality.

Conventional broadcasting is increasingly being digitized. The broadcasting infrastructure is constantly being expanded as a result of digitization. Not only does broadcasting benefit from this, but also the Internet.

A transmitter that owns a satellite channel has an unlimited number of receivers in the catchment area of ​​the satellite, as the receivers neither need a return channel nor have their own network bandwidth available to receive the transmitter.

Broadcasting with a return channel over private networks can only reach a limited number of recipients. The communication networks are not suitable for a large number of transmitters who are supposed to reach an unlimited number of recipients at the same time, since an Internet transmitter is not assigned a constantly available bandwidth. Internet broadcasters often use third-party broadcasting infrastructure to transport the information to the recipient. The information must pass through non-sender server systems, where it is received and sent again. Any technical malfunctions that occur are therefore often outside the sphere of influence of the respective transmitter, and eliminating malfunctions is usually more difficult than with conventional broadcasting.

One advantage of internet radio is that it can be received worldwide. While radio programs in the VHF range are regionally limited or use satellites to broadcast their content, global access to Internet stations is much easier and, in principle, you can access a certain Internet radio station from anywhere in the world. So it is a real “world receiver”. Many thousands of programs from all over the world are available via portals such as B. SHOUTcast can be received.

In contrast to the traditional shortwave world receivers, which also receive stations from all over the world, the number of stations is significantly higher.

Most of the well-known radio stations are now broadcasting on the Internet at the same time. However, there are exceptions to accessibility, for example if the Internet is partially or completely blocked and / or filtered by national authorities or providers .

Web radio is also a not insignificant distribution medium for independent labels and styles of music that find little space or attention in conventionally receivable radio.

Sound quality

The sound quality (or the transmission quality) depends essentially on the bit rate used and the compression method (e.g. Advanced Audio Coding or MP3 ). In principle everything is possible, from “telephone quality” to CD quality. Most radios offer a fairly good, noise-free sound, comparable to FM radio. If the pieces of music (sound files) are played in digitally, there are no more losses due to analog conversion. Many stations from overseas only offer bit rates around 32 kBit / s due to a lack of bandwidth. It's too bad for music, but language can still be understood very clearly with it. The quality is i. d. Usually much better than with a shortwave world receiver. Typically 128 kBit / s are used.

Grassroots democracy

Any PC user with an Internet connection can become a sender if he broadcasts his own material, such as self-composed or GEMA- free music and his own moderation. With a typical DSL connection, the potential audience is limited to just a few listeners. During the Serbian Revolution in 1997, the regime-critical VHF transmitter B92 disappeared into the digital underground and only broadcasted via the Internet.

Internet specific differences

Web radio is not limited to the secondary utilization or archiving of existing programs; numerous new formats and technologies have been developed; see Webcasting , Netcasting , Narrowcasting and Broadcatch . Recording radio broadcasts can also be made easier. The Streamripper plug-in from Winamp enables the simultaneous recording of MP3 streams.

Licensing and costs

Anyone who broadcasts radio programs exclusively via the Internet does not need a license in Germany (Section 20b of the State Broadcasting Treaty - RStV). However, an offer that is distributed from a server in Germany must be reported to the responsible state media authority. The advertisement is possible free of charge via the internet portals of all 14 state media authorities in Germany; Failure to report or a false report can result in a fine of up to 500,000 euros (Section 49 (1) sentence 1 no. 18 RStV). However, the Bavarian State Center for New Media (BLM) names a capacity threshold of 500 simultaneous listeners, above which an advertisement is required. That reflects the legal situation correctly. Sections 20b and 49 (1) sentence 1 no. 18 RStV only speak of “radio programs” that are distributed exclusively on the Internet. It must be noted, however, that according to the exception rule in Section 2 (3) No. 1 RStV, such offers are not broadcasting if they “are offered to less than 500 potential users for simultaneous reception”. Electronic information and communication services which neither broadcast i. S. of the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty nor telecommunications services i. S. of the Telecommunications Act , telemedia are i. S. of § 2 Abs. 1 Clause 3 RStV and as such acc. § 54 Paragraph 1 Clause 1 RStV admission and registration free.

In addition, in Germany, for example, fees for GEMA (minimum remuneration 30 euros / month) and GVL (minimum remuneration non-commercial: 500 euros / year, commercial: 1500 euros / year) are incurred if the web radio plays music subject to tax. Additional costs arise from the "traffic" (the volume of data transferred): the more people listen, the more expensive it becomes for the broadcaster. Classic broadcasting companies that second-use their FM broadcasts over the Internet (“simulcasting”) have usually concluded flat-rate contracts with their streaming providers.


Streaming server

Lossy audio compression methods such as MP3 , Ogg Vorbis or Real Audio are generally used to reduce the amount of data to be transmitted over the Internet (see streaming formats ); Various highly specialized streaming codecs are available for encoding . The main requirement for such special streaming codecs is the highest possible data compression, while the streaming data formats must also contain additional information (e.g. metadata , advertising , control information, etc.).

Programs such as Icecast , SHOUTcast , Nicecast or the QuickTime Streaming Server can be used as streaming servers .

The transfer takes place using special streaming protocols (live streaming) or via the file transfer protocols HTTP and FTP (on-demand streaming). The main requirement for special streaming protocols is a high level of fault tolerance , so that if possible at least five percent of packet losses can be compensated for without any visible or audible loss of quality.

Streaming clients

In addition to an Internet connection, so-called streaming clients are required to receive the web radios. Computer programs on PCs or smartphones can be used as streaming clients . But special hardware solutions such as media centers or players are also possible. These are often referred to as internet or web radio in retail. Some streams only work with a few proprietary clients, Flash or only in the browser of the radio website. Many MP3 / AAC stream offers, e.g. B. those from the Shoutcast or Icecast portal, however, are standardized to the extent that they are compatible with most popular media player programs (e.g. Winamp , VLC media player , Windows Media Player etc.). This makes zapping through different channels much easier .

Receiving devices

In particular, since the spread of wireless Internet connections via WLAN (WiFi) or mobile telephony , the reception of radio stations via the Internet is no longer essentially limited to the PC. There are now more independent web radio receivers, for example for the living room, which can be connected to the Internet via the (WLAN) router . You can search for stations around the world on the devices, as long as they are noted in the extensive lists of the manufacturer portals. According to the selection criteria country (location) and music style (genre) , the navigation provides quick access. Since there are very few manufacturers for the built-in chipsets, the menu navigation is often identical across all brands. Most devices also offer the option of managing the station selection via the manufacturer's web portals on the PC. Some of these devices have good sound characteristics and can also be connected to the stereo system. Other devices feed the signal from the router into the television. Web radio via mobile phone is standard in smartphones. The latest game consoles can also play web radio. In addition, various radios also have additional reception options from DAB and / or FM stations.

Internet radio receivers (also known as WLAN radios) offer the option of receiving radio programs broadcast on the Internet with devices that are similar in design and features to classic radio receivers for terrestrial reception. The variety of programs is significantly greater than with classic radio via DAB + and FM. However, since the classic transmission frequencies do not exist with Internet radio and the manual entry of a stream address is not convenient for the user, all common Internet radio receivers are supplied with station lists via databases from so-called portal operators, from which the listener can then select and access his favorite programs Save favorite memory locations. Some devices also offer the option of adding your own streams, bypassing the portal operator. Problems arise when new radio programs are not added to their lists by the portal operators or the portal operators change or even discontinue their services. Then it can happen that the Internet radio receivers can no longer play programs or have to be laboriously reprogrammed. Almost all providers of internet radio and hybrid devices use the framework, i. H. the databases of the operator Frontier Silicon, which is also reflected in the largely very similar menu structure. In the event of a failure or restrictions of the portal operator, as happened at the beginning of May 2019, for example, a large number of receiving devices are only functional to a limited extent or not at all (keyword electronic waste).


Even modern televisions with an Internet connection and HDMI sticks with the appropriate software can play Internet radio.


The streams can be distributed centrally or locally using P2P technology. While the technical or financial requirements are high in the case of central distribution, P2P technology offers a simple and inexpensive way of producing web radio due to the low bandwidth requirements of the broadcaster. The unsteady flow of data may be a disadvantage of P2P technology. The best known software producers in this area are Peercast and Flatcast.


Sound quality

Most public radio programs run on internet radio at a maximum of 128 kbit / s MP3 / AAC / Ogg , while on satellite 320 kbit / s MP2 , with cultural waves sometimes even 448 kbit / s AC3 5.1 are common.


With some organizers, the regional versions that are not responsible at the headquarters are not offered on the internet radio, even if various web channels are sometimes offered for different music styles.

Storage option

Due to contracts with collecting societies, many broadcasters cannot or are not allowed to offer the possibility of storing externally produced content in internet radio. In addition, § 4e ORF-G prescribes the provision for retrieval without the possibility of storage.

See also

Portal: Radio  - Overview of Wikipedia content on radio


  • Michael Schmitz, Wolf Siebel: Sender & Frequenzen 2012 - Yearbook for worldwide radio reception, 29th year (long, medium, short wave - satellite - Internet), Siebel Verlag, © Verlag für Technik und Handwerk GmbH, Baden-Baden 2012, ISBN 978-3-88180-865-1

Web links

Commons : Internet radio  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Internet radio  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. positions itself as an entertainment platform. In: horizon. October 26, 2000, accessed July 14, 2017 .
  2. BLM Goldmedia Study Webradiomonitor 2010
  4. Web radio monitor 2016
  6. ARD / ZDF online study 2010 ( memento from January 26, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF file; 193 kB), page 370.
  7. ARD / ZDF online study 2008 ( Memento from April 13, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Radio via the Internet: 20 million tune in
  9. ^ Association of Private Broadcasting and Telemedia e. V. (VPRT) , published by the audio marketer RMS.
  10. BLM, BVDW, VPRT: Webradiomonitor 2017. (PDF) (No longer available online.) September 13, 2017, archived from the original on September 13, 2017 ; accessed on September 13, 2017 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. Webradiomonitor 2017 by BLM, BVDW and VPRT - first partial publication for dmexco 2017: Webradio and audio establish themselves in the online advertising market . In: . ( [accessed on September 13, 2017]).
  12. BLM study on hybrid radio use
  13. Information and form for displaying Internet radios at BLM
  14. Lucky bag and homesick killer
  15. ^ Stiftung Warentest Internet radio: thousands of stations, September 27, 2007 (accessed on February 1, 2013)
  16. Bitter Lemmer: Ciao, license radio!
  17. Web radio for Sony's PSP and DivX for the PS3