The languishing state of digital audio broadcasting in the United States following its introduction more than two years ago has spurred the nation’s largest broadcast conglomerates to form an “HD Digital Radio Alliance” to facilitate the bona-fide rollout of digital service. Key to this campaign is the coming of what the Alliance calls “HD2 multicast sidechannels.”
The ability to broadcast multiple program streams on a single radio channel is relatively new to the U.S. digital radio environment. As initially developed over the last 15 years (!) the dominant U.S. digital radio protocol, now known as “HD Radio,” did not accommodate a multicasting feature: National Public Radio spearheaded its creation less than three years ago. Continue reading “Digital Radio Add-On Now Its "Killer App"”
Ibiquity Digital Corp., patent-holders on the In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) digital audio broadcast standard adopted by the U.S., announced its license fee structure earlier this month. Ibiquity’s technology is proprietary – therefore, going forward, digital radio broadcasting requires two licenses to broadcast: one from the government and one from Ibiquity.
In hopes of enticing early adoption, the initial “one-time” general IBOC license fee to Ibiquity begins at $5,000 per station. If stations wait just three years to convert, however, they will find that fee to be five-fold.
Then, there are the residuals: stations that multicast (i.e. carry multiple program streams on one channel) must pay Ibiquity 3% of the revenues derived from the second DAB channel, or $1,000, whichever is greater. This fee will be assessed annually. This is somewhat ironic because National Public Radio led the effort to develop IBOC-compliant multicast capability (something commercial broadcasters initially rebuffed). Continue reading “HD Radio: Pay to Play”
Last month the Commission released a further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry on the implementation of digital radio in the U.S. When it first gave the nod to the rollout of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in 2002, it admitted that it was not sure how it would work in the real world, but the intervening two years seem have provided the “evidence” necessary to move ahead with its nationwide expansion.
While the broadcast industry has portrayed the In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) DAB transmission system as ready for deployment, the truth is only the hybrid digital/analog “transition” system has actually been deployed, or is even close to ready. The National Radio Systems Committee (a joint effort of the National Association of Broadcasters and Consumer Electronics Association) has not yet tested the “all-digital systems.” Continue reading “Digital Radio Moves Incrementally at FCC”
Digital radio is essentially streaming audio over the air. Anyone who’s handled an audio file knows the rule of thumb: the better the bitrate, the better the sound. In the file-sharing community most songs are offered is 128kbps – okay, not CD quality, but not cruddy like a tape dub. Some audio encoders offer better quality than others, due to subtle differences in the encoding algorithm each system uses.
For “HD Radio,” the U.S. brand name for digital radio, the bitrate for most stations is expected to be between 64-96kbps, with AM running as low as 36kbps. iBiquity, the company behind the system, promises “enhanced sound fidelity” at these bitrates. In May the National Radio Systems Committee disagreed, suspending the official standard-setting process for the IBOC technology (at the heart of “HD Radio”) after declaring its audio quality unsuitable for broadcast, jeopardizing the full-scale rollout of consumer receivers for that all-important holiday season in the process. Continue reading “IBOC Overhaul: Good As Advertised?”
Some news that didn’t make the headlines this week: Ibiquity Digital Radio has fired three executives over the ongoing flap involving the inferior sound quality of the IBOC “HD Radio” technology.
Of the three, the departure of E. Glynn Walden is the most notable: he’s been the company’s main contact for the broadcast industry, having worked on the IBOC system since 1989. Walden was also responsible for all testing of the new technology. Ibiquity says the departures are due to “cost reasons,” but methinks the company is shaking up its management after the current team gave birth to a digital dog. Continue reading “Heads Roll @ Ibiquity; LPFM Forced Off the Air; Berkeley Liberation Radio Alive and Well”
Guess what? The sound quality of the new “HD Radio” system sucks! That’s the verdict of none other than the National Radio Systems Committee, the industry-sponsored group that develops radio broadcast standards in the U.S.
In an internal memo dated May 14 (.pdf, 94K), Milford Smith, chairman of the NRSC subcommittee on digital radio, announced it is “temporarily suspending its IBOC-DAB standards-setting process.” This is due in part to the results of recent on-air tests and a private demonstration held at the Washington, D.C. studios of National Public Radio. The evidence mostly involves the AM side of the iBiquity-engineered digital radio system. Continue reading “Bump in the Road to Digital Radio”
And then there was one…well, not quite yet. Sirius Satellite Radio, the smaller of the two satellite radio service providers in the United States, is still on the air – but barely.
On Tuesday the FCC approved the transfer of Sirius’ licenses to broadcast via satellite to the company’s largest creditors. A life-or-death deal hinged on this transfer taking place. In exchange for the licenses, a consortium of investment banks and private capital investment firms will swap approximately $700 million worth of debt and $200 million cash, and will also acquire majority stock control of the company. Continue reading “Sirius Sells Out to Creditors”
A couple of additional data points to add to the first reported FCC pirate radio enforcement action of the year: Kent, WA’s Deez Nutz 93.7 received not one, but two visits from the FCC on Friday, January 9.
The person who lives where the station was housed was not home at the time of the first visit, but the FCC agents on the case contacted the landlord of the property and “instructed” them to dismantle the antenna and cut the coaxial cable feed line. Continue reading “Update #2 – More details on Deez Nutz' Bust; Stations-in-a-Suitcase @ Flea Markets?; AM IBOC – Listen For Yourself”
When the Federal Communications Commission approved the rollout of digital radio (“HD Radio,” as it’s being branded to consumers) in October, it did so with one qualifier. Interference is a big problem with the digital radio standard that the U.S. broadcast industry has developed for itself, and the FCC admitted as much when it refused to authorize digital transmissions on the AM band during nighttime hours.
AM stations that have tested the in-band-on-channel (IBOC) digital radio technology on the air discovered it could cause heavy interference to stations on nearby frequencies, manifesting as a hash-type noise rendering the stations unlistenable. The FCC actually received complaints from radio listeners during the digital radio rulemaking proceedings about the tests and the interference, and they are on the record. The FM version of HD Radio is also susceptible to interference problems.
This did not stop the FCC from authorizing its use with great fanfare, save the one caveat on nighttime AM broadcasting. Continue reading “At Least We Tried”
Lots of activism in the form of paper-filing is taking place right now at the Federal Communications Commission.
A broad coalition of consumer rights, labor, and media democracy groups – representing both people working within and outside the media industry – have filed a petition to extend the FCC’s public comment deadline on its proposal to radically overhaul media ownership rules. The current comment deadline is December 2 – the FCC only planned to give the public a 90-day window in which to comment on this massive proposal – the coalition wants the comment period extended until April. Continue reading “Multiple Skirmishes @ the FCC”