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Friday, 11 June 2010


Bill K

Bottom line - Radio listeners are declining. This is a fact of life and it isn't because the modes are outdated. It's because competetion is everwhere. Going "digital" won't save it. That's clearly being demonstated. The answer is to capitalize on what you're doing right and radio doesn't do that. Instead, they hold NAB confrences and pass out stupid awards for stupid things then make a big deal when a single NPR station announces their new HD4 service (as if anyone rally cares) or they believe that success is just around the corner if they sell a few digital radios to a few radio insiders (and then make outlandish claims about the number of HD radios sold). If they keep looking in the wrong direction like they've been doing they'll eventually have no listener base. Maybe that's what they want so they can start all over again and become "radio pioneers" (isn't that Stubles thinks of himself?) I can assure you - they might get it but they won't live long enough to see it.

Charlie Demerjian

The one thing no one seems to be talking about with respect to HD radio is DRM. Have you looked for an HD radio with analog outs to put into your stereo or wire into your car? What's that I hear you say, you can't find one? I have been looking for three years, since the standard was first announced, at CES, CeBIT, and many other shows I attend. So far is zero units.

When you talk to the proponents of HD radio, and I have probably a dozen times, if you bring up analog outs, interoperability, or DRM infections, you will be amazed at how quickly the topic is changed, or how the person has to go do something else NOW. I think I am 11/12 for that score. The last person didn't understand the technology at all, but he was representing the consortium at their CES booth. SIGH.

Anyway, HD radio seems to be nothing more than a standard meant to remove some of the last vestiges of fair use rights. Create a walled garden, kill alternatives, then monetize. And you wonder why people are not lining up in droves?


Craig Hattersley

I'm incredibly impressed with the fact that you are posting this entire discussion. Please don't get me a wrong: I am a dedicated listener to NPR, and have been since 1979. I just truly believe that mistakes are being made, and the website I run, keeppublicradiopublic.com, along with allied Facebook sites and others, are an attempt to correct these mistakes. Once again, kudos for airing this... Many other media sites will not countenance even the mildest criticism.

Jack Hannold

I want to make three very important points.

First, you’re being disingenuous, to say the least, when you say that FM “didn’t always look like a winner.” Granted, FM took a long time to attain the acceptance it deserved, but that was primarily because the dominant forces in commercial radio — the networks — were doing their utmost to undercut it. Why? Because they didn’t want competition from independent operators in a new band. (Yes, they applied for FM licenses, but they were just hedging their bets. They wanted to have FM licenses in case FM did catch on; and every license awarded to one of the majors was a license that wouldn’t go to an upstart independent.)

Today, the dominant forces in commercial radio, most of them members of the “HD Radio Alliance,” are doing their best to promote IBOC, which has been mendaciously relabeled “HD” (it’s anything but high definition!), for the same reason: because they don’t like competition. They were happy to have digital audio broadcasting in the United States tied to existing stations, instead of having it licensed in an entirely new band, where all comers would have a chance to get a digital license, at least in theory.

Unfortunately, they were able to persuade the public radio establishment that this deeply flawed technology was the wave of the future. It was CPB that irresponsibly allocated taxpayer money for IBOC conversion at NPR member stations. The money didn’t go to NPR. (You see, Dennis, I know exactly how this played out, and I’ve been careful here in how I worded this. So please try not to be so condescending!) But NPR and other national program suppliers benefitted from that money, because the secondary channels expanded the market for their programs. And it was NPR Labs made that possible by developing the protocols for multicasting. So NPR’s fingerprints are all over this.

And that brings us to my second point.

Multicasting is very desirable, especially for public radio, but you don’t need IBOC for multicasting. FM Extra works much better and costs far less. Digital subcarriers in the range otherwise occupied by a narrowband FM SCA are usable wherever a station’s analog stereo subcarrier is usable. (See “Road-Testing the FMeXtra,” by Tom H. Jones. Radio World, Nov. 8, 2006. http://www.rwonline.com/article/276).
The FM Extra signal falls entirely within a station’s assigned channel. It doesn’t occupy one half of each first-adjacent channel, so there are no adjacent interference problems. And because the FM Extra signal is a true subcarrier of a constant-amplitude FM signal, a station using FM Extra can keep using its analog transmitter with high-efficiency Class C finals.

Best of all, the FM Extra encoder costs only $12,000, putting it within reach of almost any station — even Class D’s and LPFM’s.

If NPR, which has devoted a lot of air time and space on its homepage to promoting “HD” radio, had put only a fraction of that effort into promoting FM Extra instead, word of mouth would have done the rest, and that system would be the accepted standard for multicasting.

So why doesn’t the public radio establishment jettison the unworkable IBOC technology and embrace FM Extra? The only tenable explanation I can offer is that they’ve invested so much of their money—and their prestige—in IBOC that their egos won’t allow them to admit that the whole thing has been a mistake.

And what’s the third point I want to make?

It’s about asymmetrical IBOC. The only real advantage IBOC transmission has had so far is its relative immunity to multipath. But that immunity is the result of the redundancy of data in the upper and lower first-adjacent channels. Without that redundancy, IBOC will be less immune to multipath than either the double-sideband suppressed carrier analog stereo difference signal or an SCA signal — whether that SCA is a conventional analog narrowband FM signal or a digital FM Extra signal. So in any additional area covered by only a single IBOC signal, there will be no multipath advantage.

Scott Wilson

One significant issue with digital radio (among many) is that it displaces existing services. No other technology that I know of - past or present - sought to directly eliminate an existing service like iBiquitys questionable system. (And no, the onset of FM radio didn't do that to AM radio so don't even go there.) It's unfortunate that digital radio proponents have been given what is essentially a free ride both from a funding standpoint as well as Government handouts in an attempt to make it successful despite a demonstrable lack of consumer acceptance. Imagine that same business model used by Apple or Microsoft. They would have been gone long ago. But not radio. It continues to limp along trying to keep up with the rest of the world with this "me too" attitude using all kinds of gimmicky tactics. Meanwhile, NPR station listener numbers are dropping every year. But that doesn't matter. They just keep throwing good money after bad. What was it that Einstein said about insanity? Something about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Keep up with the commentary Dennis Haarsager and Mike Starling - it's insane but entertaining.


"Oh Well, on With the Experiment..."

"The saga continues. It’s remarkable that the development of the IBOC system began well over 20 years ago, yet it still seems to be an ongoing experiment... In their 2008 report, they warned of dire consequences that would ensue from a blanket FM IBOC power increase. They had plenty of statistics to back this up, derived from studies of numerous stations, using sophisticated propagation prediction tools. According to these results, there were some significant interference problems even at the existing –20 dBc power level. But then another study is hastily done, and now we’re told: Oops, our mistake, a blanket increase of 6 dB is actually just fine, and even a 10 dB increase will be okay in most cases."


Besides the total lack of consumer interest in HD Radio, with nonsense like this from NPR, it's no wonder stations are balking at any power increase (aside from the costs).


"The Wonderful World of HD Radio"

"Perhaps it is because it is the American Public that has been paying a large portion of the development costs for HD radio? Yup, that is you and I. An FCC filing from North Carolina’s Public Radio Stations cites: Just a few weeks ago, the House Appropriations Committee approved an additional $40 million to assist public radio stations’ transition to HD radio technology.”


@Dennis: The CPB has received tens-of-millions of taxpayers dollars from Congress to disperse to NPR for upgrades to this useless, destructive technology designed to block distant, adjacent-channel stations, and force listeners to listen to only local HD Radio stations. HD Radio is a massive fraud perpetrated onto the General Public and broadcasters.
Dennis replies: Again, for the record, NPR didn't get a dime of this money. It goes to hundreds of independent public radio stations, each of which makes its own decisions relating to digital radio.

Craig Hattersley

HD radio is a scam perpetrated by iBiquity and those with a vested interest — such as NPR, Dennis — on the American people. It is a substandard system run by a monopoly, which has never been done in the history of the public airwaves. It does not work, it degrades neighboring analog channels, and its use by NPR (funding HD radio in stations through the CPB) is sucking money from local stations, costing local jobs, and attempting to homogenize public radio. If you've got three stations now instead of one, and two of them air canned NPR, PRI, and BBC product, how does this help the local station? How is the cost of all of this promoting local sensibilities? Don't drink the Kool-Aid, people.
Reply from Dennis: For the record, NPR does not fund HD Radio or anything else. CPB and NTIA provide some funding, but are completely independent of NPR.

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