After its lackluster appearance at the NAB Show earlier this year, HD Radio‘s new owners, DTS Inc., are trying mightily to demonstrate that the technology remains a viable future for broadcast radio. In May, DTS announced its first-quarter financials, representing the first full quarter of its ownership of iBiquity. As expected, the acquisition had a positive effect on DTS’ bottom line, no doubt from the revenue stream involving licensing HD receivers in cars (for which the company gets paid as much as $12 per unit).
Presently, however, HD Radio is found in just 37% of all new vehicles sold in the United States — a far cry from widespread penetration, but more than enough to move the needle in DTS’ ledgers. According to a company conference call earlier this year, the acquisition of HD Radio is part of a pivot by DTS away from developing/acquiring audio enhancement systems for home entertainment technologies (which are on the decline) and toward the mobile and portable device spaces (which are growing mightily). By the end of 2016, DTS expects its automotive division (which includes HD Radio) to account for some 40% of all revenues. Continue reading “HD Radio: "We're Still Here"”
An interesting trial-balloon was floated last month in Radio World. In it, John Kean, one of the founding employees of NPR Labs (who was let go in a reshuffle this past August) suggested that the FCC’s spectrum allocation rules be revised to better “protect” FM-HD Radio sideband signals.
Before going any further, it’s best to cover some history. HD Radio was adopted by the FCC in 2000 primarily on the premise that the system used “no new spectrum.” In fact, FM-HD signals double the spectral footprint of FM stations — but HD’s proponents got around this by appropriating fallow spectrum the FCC leaves between stations as the stations’ own allocation. Continue reading “HD Proponents Seek Protection for "No New Spectrum"”
When the FCC announced the creation of an “AM Revitalization Initiative” in 2013, the proposal included a grab-bag of industry desires, such as the right for AM stations to utilize FM translators and for AM stations to move from hybrid analog/digital broadcasting to the all-digital AM-HD protocol. But to the consternation of industry lobbyists and HD-backers there’s been no movement on this initiative — so now they’re beginning to whine about it.
Case in point is a commentary published in late June by Frank Montero, an attorney at D.C. communications law powerhouse Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, which laments that AM broadcasters are being held hostage without access to FM translators and accuses the FCC of playing political football with the future of AM itself. It’s full of questionable assertions and revisionist history. Continue reading “AM Broadcasters Still Seek Translators, Digital Authorization”
At the turn of the twenty-first century, proponents of HD Radio sold the technology to the FCC by claiming that it used “no new spectrum.” Advocates of low-power FM (LPFM) radio made a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to this claim. They worried that the digital sidebands of FM-HD signals would interfere with the new wave of community stations the FCC was preparing to unleash. HD supporters dismissed these concerns.
Ten years after both HD and LPFM took to the air, the conflict between the two services is crystal clear.
Brad Johnson is a lot like me: a former participant in the corporate media who made the decision to step away from it following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. One of the careers decimated by post-Telecom radio consolidation was broadcast engineering – Brad was the chief engineer at several Citadel and Clear Channel-owned stations in central California until he was let go in the repeated rounds of downsizing the companies conducted during their station-buying frenzy. Continue reading “LPFM vs. HD Radio: The Curious Case of KGIG”
This story flew under my radar, probably because it was published in USA Today, which is not necessarily known for its in-depth investigative journalism.
The bottom line: f*cking with your smartphone on an airplane has a clear potential for danger. The report uncovered nearly three dozen incidents of interference from onboard passenger electronic devices last year. The interference affected communications and navigational systems; though none resulted in an accident, critical flight-management systems were compromised. Continue reading “Leaving the Ground? Shut It Down”
Radio World Engineering Extra dropped a bomb this month with a very provocative cover story: “What Are We Doing to Ourselves, Exactly?” Written by Doug Vernier, the man who authored the technical specifications for an ongoing Corporation for Public Broadcasting-sponsored HD Radio interference analysis, the report is the first of its kind to document interference between FM-HD stations around the country.
Using anecdotal reportage, some sophisticated contour-mapping, and presumably “early data” from the CPB study, Vernier’s article conclusively proves how stations running in hybrid HD/analog mode can (and do) interfere somewhat significantly with not only themselves, but their neighbors on the FM dial.
Most interesting tidbits: Continue reading “HD Interference: Not Just For AM Anymore”
According to a leaked memorandum from ABC/Citadel‘s executive chief engineer, all AM stations in the company’s stable have ceased broadcasting in digital at night, effective immediately. The memorandum does not give specifics, but follow-on reports cite interference between AM stations on adjacent channels as a major factor for the decision. Interestingly, some suggest Citadel executives knew such a problem might be in the offing, but they went ahead and turned on their digital signals at night anyway.
This is a major setback for the adoption of HD Radio, especially on the AM dial, and Citadel is the first large broadcast conglomerate to back away from full deployment of the HD broadcast technology. Although the company’s gone out of its way not to characterize its move an indictment of iBiquity’s proprietary digital broadcast standard, the problems with AM HD broadcast interference are well–known and -documented. Continue reading “AM Broadcasters Back Away from HD Deployment”
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting seeks proposals to conduct a study of digital radio interference – both existing and projected – in 75 radio markets around the country, including the top 50. According to the RFP announcement, “CPB is concerned with the disenfranchisement of listeners due to the loss of services public radio currently provides to them and the underperformance or lack of HD service…when the conversion of public radio stations to HD is complete.”
The document itself notes, “CPB has received reports that existing analog listeners have lost reception of their favorite public radio station when new HD signals have gone on the air.” Continue reading “Public Broadcasters Want Digital Interference Examined”
A couple of reports surfaced this month about a station in Louisiana changing frequencies due to interference to aviation radio channels. The 50,000-watt station in question broadcast on 107.9 FM and is owned by Cumulus Broadcasting, and the interference reportedly involved intermodulation between it and another station in east Texas.
Unlike last year’s hype of a pirate station in Florida interfering with aircraft communications, the Louisiana interference affected the instrument navigation signals of several airports, including the Barksdale Air Force Base. Continue reading “Commercial Stations Interfere With Airplanes”