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News Archive: May 2009

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5/30/09 - HD Going Global? Check the Map [link to this story]

Kurt Hanson over at the Radio and Internet Newsletter recently posted an insta-retrospective of the tenure of David Rehr as (former) President of the National Association of Broadcasters. The piece focuses on "possible errors" made by the NAB et. al. during Rehr's reign. Number two on the list is HD Radio:

Unfortunately, it turns out that “going digital” in radio’s case is not going to happen via the distribution method of IBOC (In-Band On-Channel), but rather via the delivery mechanism of the Internet. Already the latter method has tens of millions of weekly listeners on PCs, plus millions more on smartphones (many in cars), while cumulative HD Radio sales are still under a million units. (And the gap is spreading.)

Radio’s effort to contain digitally-delivered radio to their scarce FCC-licensed frequencies has cost radio hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment upgrades — and, worse yet, more than $1 billion in wasted on-air promotion value.

And, meanwhile, most of the great Internet radio opportunities are being grabbed by outsiders....

Hanson's missive was posted just days before the iBiquity Corporation announced its newest client in the global HD Radio portfolio - Panama. According to the Panamanian government, the country would like to go all-digital within 10 years; good luck with that, as there's no functional, certified all-digital version of the HD protocol available yet.

Just how much of a milestone is this? Using iBiquity's own information, as well as publicly-available trade-press and national regulatory data, the map at right shows the score.

Countries in green indicate those where HD Radio has been certified as the digital audio broadcast (DAB) protocol-of-choice. These include the United States, the Philippines, and Panama.

Countries in red indicate those whose regulatory agencies have formally dismissed HD Radio as a viable digital radio protocol. These countries include Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Countries in yellow indicate those who have either engaged in some (usually rudimentary) level of testing of the HD Radio protocol, or, in a very few cases, have allowed its limited and conditional deployment (but have not formally committed to HD as the national DAB standard). These countries include Argentina, Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, France, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Thailand, the Ukraine, and Vietnam. In some of these instances, the tests were of limited duration and no further action has been taken by national regulators.

There's a lot of white on the map. I didn't color in those countries which have already chosen or are actively testing non-HD Radio broadcast standards (much of Asia and Western Europe, including countries like the UK and Germany). Much of the "industrialized world" is simply out of play. In addition, many countries (especially in Africa, eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East) have simply not thought much about making a digital radio transition as of yet - analog works just fine for them for now, thanks.

For iBiquity to claim that it has a "global presence" equates in truth to a claim once made by the last U.S. president who justified an unjust war because it was backed by a "coalition of the willing." No disrespect to its citizenry, but when Panama and the Philippines got your back, it's not like you're exactly poised to take over the world.

5/22/09 - Enforcement Action Database Update [link to this story]

As part of a long-standing effort to get the legacy-projects of the site up to speed before delving into the dissertation, I've compiled the "final" statistics for the FCC's enforcement actions in 2008 and brought the Enforcement Action Database up to-date for this year.

Unfortunately, the agency just missed hitting the 400 mark with enforcement actions last year - though due to the various methods by which the Enforcement Bureau inflates its enforcement statistics, it's safe to say that most likely fewer than 200 stations were actually "dimed" by the agency in some way last year.

2009 appears to have gotten off to a similarly inauspicious start: so far there have been 174 enforcement actions against unlicensed stations in 14 states; though with statistics-inflation in full effect the number of actual "pirates" tangibly affected is much lower.

As for the exercising of actual muscle, it's nearly non-existent: one $10K fine was issued this March from a case first opened in 2006; two stations in Florida have been raided and three people arrested (these were conducted at the behest of local authorities - one "promoted gangs" and the other called itself "One Love Radio," so damn yr stereotypes); and of all the enforcement actions logged so far in 2009, only two originate from alleged complaints of interference.

This is not to say that the FCC can't get feisty at times, although it's very selective about when and how. For example, EB field agents unleashed a tizzy when they visited Boulder Free Radio recently and left behind a note claiming that they don't need a warrant to search the premises (a dubious claim debunked nine years ago). At the same time, the widespread abuse of amateur radio frequencies by on-duty Indianapolis police officers passed by with little more than a slap on the wrist earlier this year.

As I've said before, so long as there's more of us than them, we're winning.

5/21/09 - Del Colliano Chroncles the Cratering of Radio [link to this story]

I know I've mentioned Inside Music Media before but its proprietor, Jerry Del Colliano, has been on quite a roll over the last couple of months. Some examples:

IMM predicted mass-cutbacks at Clear Channel weeks before they were announced - and then gave the most accurate figures publicly available on the real size and scope of the layoffs.

In the wake of the first corporate culling, Clear Channel announced its new focus on "localism." IMM saw right through that poppycock, and even revealed the seemingly desperate lengths the company is going to avoid negative regulatory attention. In the interim, he also revealed new details on a second round of layoffs, and the negative impacts these cuts are already having on the company's ability to adequately serve the public interest.

And Clear Channel is not the only target in town: IMM took Citadel/ABC to task for running the company into the ground, while the company's big-wigs walked away with millions and the worker-bees are left to cope with "stayoffs."

There is much more bad news to come, and I have no doubt Jerry Del Colliano will be there to chronicle it. He's also pushing hard for true lovers of radio to come to grasp with the medium's need to adapt to "new media," so there's plenty of constructive advice to balance the criticism. Having been a fan of Del Colliano's since the days of Inside Radio, I don't think I've seen him so full of piss and vinegar in close to a decade.