Successive rounds of hurricanes battering the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico are the latest fodder in a radio industry campaign designed to pressure smartphone manufacturers to include radio reception capability in their devices.
Many Android-compatible smarphones are capable of receiving FM signals. The radio industry, led by Emmis Communications, has designed an app called NextRadio that functions as an onboard tuner.
Prior elements of this campaign involved running public service announcements letting people know this functionality existed, and low-key advocacy for a possible mandate for FM in smartphones both at the FCC and Congress. Following Hurricane Irma’s destruction, particularly in Florida, broadcasters amped it up.
They took their cue from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who explicitly called out Apple on September 28th to enable FM reception in their phones “to promote public safety.” The next day, the National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement that claimed Apple’s iPhone hardware does indeed contain a chip capable of FM reception, but the company has chosen to disable it; “we encourage Apple to activate this feature on their future handsets so Americans can have access to lifesaving information during emergency situations, something that many local radio stations provide.” Continue reading “FM vs. iPhone: A Battle of Shaded Truths”
With little fanfare, the FCC has replied to the Congressional delegations of New York and New Jersey, who are demanding that the agency do something about the proliferation of unlicenesed broadcasters in the New York metropolitan area. At last count, at least three dozen stations are operating in the borough of Brooklyn alone; if you extrapolate that across the five boroughs and add in cities on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, it’s not inconceivable to estimate that as many as 100 pirate stations may be on the air here.
The rising tide of unlicensed broadcast activity in the NYC area — a trend that is several years old now — is exacerbated by the FCC’s utter lack of resources to deal with the issue. Just last month the agency announced a major restructuring of its field enforcement resources, which will result in a net diminution of boots on the ground across the country. In the NYC metroplex, the number of field agents is being increased by one, from four to five people. Although they will be ostensibly be backed up by one of two flying squads of roving agents who will travel the country to enforcement hot-spots (this includes dealing with many issues other than unlicensed broadcasting), it remains to be seen whether this will meaningfully improve the FCC’s overall enforcement abilities. Continue reading “FCC to Congress on Pirate Radio: We Got Nothin'”
As industry forces continue to grapple with radio’s digital transition, the medium’s push for renewed portability got a bit more complicated this summer. Not much of a surprise that the discourse surrounding the NextRadio app mimics similar forays into the new: lovers and haters lining up with little air to breathe between them.
The latest developments began with the launch last month of Free Radio On My Phone, a public-awareness campaign for enabling FM reception in smartphones. The campaign is a joint project of NextRadio, the National Association of Broadcasters, National Public Radio, American Public Radio, and the Educational Media Foundation—all heavy-hitters in commercial, public, and religious broadcasting. EMF has also agreed to sign its entire station-roster up for enhanced NextRadio services. Continue reading “The Polarization of NextRadio”
As the year rolled over, a variety of news-bits came out about the state of HD Radio in the United States.
Moving On: HD Radio’s now been around for a quarter-century. The initial development of the in-band, on-channel (IBOC) protocol that constitutes HD broadcasting first began as a science project under the auspices of Westinghouse in 1989. It’s been a long, strange trip since then: overpromising, underdelivering, crash-development, and finally a "workable" protocol. This process has constituted a career for some people—one of whom is now tending greener pastures. Continue reading “HD Radio in 2014: More Baby Steps—Toward What?”
The quiet collection of "evidence" on which to justify an all-digital HD Radio mandate for AM stations continues.
After some stealth experimentation on a CBS station in Charlotte, North Carolina late last year, there’s word of two other AM stations in the state conducting all-digital broadcast-tests this summer. The guinea pigs were WBT, a 50,000-watt station owned by Greater Media (also in Charlotte) and WNCT, a 50,000-watt (day)/10,000-watt (night) Beasley Broadcast-owned AM station in Greenville.
WBT secured experimental authorization from the FCC to conduct these tests just two weeks before they took place; WNCT also asked for fast-track authority less than a month before its all-digital broadcasts. Continue reading “Firming the Foundation for an All-Digital AM Mandate”
There’s been an interesting story playing itself out over the last month involving a company’s claims of discovering a way to dramatically improve reception of HD Radio signals.
Florida-based DigitalPower Radio announced in late March that it has developed a computational method that allows radio receivers a stronger lock on AM- and FM-HD signals, especially in areas where there might be analog-to-digital interference. Challenging conditions such as these have been detrimental to the robustness of HD signals more generally, for which the (FM) power increase implemented by some stations a couple of years ago only partially helped.
This improvement might be especially helpful in portable and mobile devices, as the change is made on a chip in the HD receiver, not on the transmission side. Continue reading “Digital PowerRadio Dispute: The Downside of Closed Systems”
It first seemed to come out of nowhere: a Texas-based company announced last year that it had developed a system it calls "ZoneCasting," which would allow FM radio stations to subdivide their primary coverage area into specific locales using FM booster stations. Each "zone" would serve up geo-targeted advertising.
An initial proposal to the FCC from ZoneCasting’s proprietor, Geo-Broadcast Solutions, asking for a rule-change governing FM boosters (to allow them to originate programming) attracted hardly any comment from within the radio industry. Many broadcast engineers initially seemed skeptical that ZoneCasting could work in a real-world environment.
Things have changed significantly over the course of a year. Continue reading “ZoneCasting Technology and Costs Detailed”
Radio World has awarded Paul Brenner its 2012 Excellence in Engineering award. Brenner, the senior VP and chief technology officer for Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications, has been the industry’s latest point-person regarding innovations involving HD Radio. He’s led the development of a prototype smartphone with FM-HD reception capability as well as an application that melds radio reception with “value-added” content delivered over the cellular network.
Brenner’s also president of the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium – an alliance of some two dozen radio companies who, along with NPR, are exploring ways to use digital radio signals to deliver real-time traffic information. Brenner estimates that there are about 12 million navigation devices in use that utilize radio to receive traffic data, and that figure’s growing by about 1-2 million per year. Continue reading “HD Radio's Latest "Killer App" Isn't Radio”
Public radio broadcasters in the U.S. are coming to grips with the announcement from Tom and Ray Magliozzi that they plan to retire from Car Talk, one of National Public Radio’s most popular (and lucrative) programs, this fall.
“Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” have been doing the show for 25 years. Although they’ll be done, Car Talk itself will remain on the air with shows assembled from the archives (one of the producers, a former colleague of mine, says they’ve got wide discretion to pick and choose what will air and when).
There’s been some controversy over whether it makes sense to actually keep running Car Talk since all the content will be rehashed. Ira Glass, founding producer of This American Life (a program that, ironically, NPR declined to syndicate), thinks airing reconstituted shows makes for bad programming precedent on NPR more generally. Continue reading “NPR: Where New Ideas Go to Die?”
The FCC’s put a proposal by iBiquity, NPR, and NAB out for public comment that would allow FM-HD broadcasters more flexibility to increase the power levels of their digital sidebands independently. Called asymmetrical transmission, this flexibility conceivably allows more HD-enabled stations to pump up the power of their digital signals to make them reliably receivable in a station’s primary coverage area.
All signs are that the comment/reply comment rigmarole in this instance is a formality. As at least one industry lawyer has noted, the fact that the FCC’s scheduled the comment period for a short three weeks before Christmas – and a week for reply-comments to be filed between Christmas and the new year – means there is little likelihood that a robust record of public debate will be assembled over this latest wrinkle in the HD Radio saga. Continue reading “Skids Greased for Further FM-HD Experimentation”