Friday, December 28, 2007

HD Radio's New Campaign

I would love to see HD Radio work. I really would.

But in order to "break" a new medium/gadget in this new millennium, it's going to take clever tactics, brilliant strategy, and on-target execution. These are qualities that have been in short supply since the Alliance was formed. Another Christmas comes and goes, and the celebration over a half million radios sold is about as meaningless as a big defensive lineman celebrating after a sack in a game his team is losing by five touchdowns.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Declare Victory and Pull Out of HD Radio

Radio executives are not dumb.

They may be arrogant enough to think their old business model will work in the future, but as the pain of declining audiences and revenue proliferates they’ll even deal with that.

So why, you ask, is the industry so secretive, silent and shameful when it comes to HD radio?

It’s a flop by any measurement.

8 N ‘08 4 HD

Yes…The Hazy Dust is clearing now. There they are — The Eight You-Saw-Them-Here-First Predictions For HD Radio in 2008:

1. Desperate for share-of-mind, HD Radios will be given away for free. Think cell phones, book & music clubs, AOL discs, and 0% auto financing. (but, will people want them?)

2. HD Radio will travel two forks in the road: Public and Talk Radio will lead with innovative programming on their HD-2 channels; HD taking the early steps toward becoming a new Information “band.” Simultaneously, HD-2 music channels will become the new Muzak, but very localized. Most sales will come from in-business fees and other non-conventional sponsorships.

3. Many stations won’t waste their time with HD-2 sub-brands, concentrating, instead, on promoting the advantages for their main, HD-1, Digital signal only.

4. A Democrat winning the White House in ’08 will ignite a creative opportunity for a new breed of Political Talk on HD-2’s, the second channel becoming a problem-solver, not an albatross.

5. If the number of sets grow, after-market applications will begin sneaking forward (a more logical and listener-friendly dial, grouping similar formats together, Cable-like interfaces, integration with Microsoft’s in-car Sync, etc.). That is a mighty big “IF.”

6. Equipment makers will put Radio on notice – Higher awareness of HD, better content, a heartbeat on the sales charts or HD Radio production lines will be shut down.

7. Ordering HD Radio as an equipment option in new cars will be a bust (see #1) . Moon roof or HD Radio? No brainer.

8. Two, perhaps three, major Radio groups will break away from the Alliance citing their desire to produce more relevant, ingenious, and compelling product than Alliance membership allows.

My Crystal Ball goes dark and blank when I look for HD Radio beyond 2008. Very dark. Very blank.


For station operators receiving harmful IBOC interference:

Don't be fatalistic.

DO NOT accept harmful interference as inevitable conesequences of the NAB's misfeasance and the political power of Big Group Radio. GET AN INTERFERENCE COMPLAINT ON FILE with the FCC. Get started on it right away! There IS something you can do to protect you, your employees, your listeners and your investment in your radio station!

For listeners and members of the general public:

You can submit FCC complaints through the Federal Communications Commission website, While this "doesn't hurt," understand that the Commission doesn't accord a lot of weight to technical complaints filed by the general public…at least not until the number of complaints reach "a critical mass" and start to get the attention of the Mass Media Bureau and politicians close to the FCC.

IBOC-AM hasn't gotten there yet. But, given the abysmal performance of the system in the field, it's only a matter of time. So your complaint can help move this along.

Another View: Hey, AM HD-R Critics: Got a Better Idea?

Naysayers Should Offer a Cost-Effective, Feasible Alternative or Put a Cork in It

by Stephen Poole, 12.19.2007
Stephen Poole is market chief engineer for Crawford Broadcasting Co., Birmingham, Ala., and a contributor to Radio World. Opinions are his own.

As a market chief engineer who has installed HD-R systems on two AMs and three FMs, I’d like to throw in my own two cents’ worth. In particular, I want to address the negative comments that have been made about AM HD-R in this magazine. The following are my own opinions and observations, not necessarily those of my employer.

My biggest complaint about the complainers — i.e., those who want to dismiss AM HD-R — is that they propose no real, feasible and realistic alternative. You get the impression that these naysayers want to keep AM as it is, in spite of its many problems and the precipitous decline in listenership in recent decades.

Okay, suppose they get their way: If the decline continues, the day will come when the manufacturers just stop building AM radios due to lack of demand. What will they do then?

2007, A Year to Remember

Probably topping the list was the release of long-anticipated “final rules” for IBOC, with the FCC’s Second Report and Order on DAB, adopted in March (although not effective until Sept. 15).

Among other things, this made it possible for broadcasters to begin FM IBOC multicasting and Extended Hybrid operation without permission or notice. It also allowed AM IBOC broadcasting at night — a topic that has subsequently proven quite controversial, resulting in numerous complaints, the formation of an anti-IBOC coalition, and one radio group’s (Citadel’s) at least temporary cessation of AM IBOC operation. This debate will undoubtedly continue in 2008.

There were other, more positive IBOC-related movements in the industry during 2007, which you may recall from their in-depth coverage on these pages, and which will likely reappear in more real form in 2008.

NAB Digital Radio Committee to Discuss AM Nighttime IBOC in January

The IBOC at night question is on the NAB radar, though. Association officials will be discussing the AM interference question next month.

In his letter to Bob Savage, Rehr continued: “In respect to NAB’s history regarding In-Band On-Channel radio (IBOC), the association has proceeded cautiously over many years with active participation by a broad cross-section of our membership to achieve consensus positions as well as our work with all-industry organizations such as the National Radio Systems Committee.

“Currently, we have an upcoming NAB Digital Radio Committee meeting scheduled in January where we will review input on nighttime AM IBOC and other related issues.”

I’m glad to see NAB planning to talk about nighttime AM IBOC in this committee. A wise engineer suggested to me this week that perhaps the best way to approach this WYSL-WBZ debate is for an independent third party to conduct an engineering study to figure out what’s going on. This could help settle whether what is happening is specifically due to IBOC, or AM atmospheric conditions, or something else.

And, of course, determining who would pay for such a study would be the next step.

WYSL Files Second IBOC Complaint

The FCC has received a second complaint about AM interference from WYSL GM Bob Savage.

He says adjacent-channel IBOC noise from WBZ in Boston is disrupting service of his station in Avon, N.Y., during day, night and critical hours.

Savage asked the commission to “take immediate enforcement action.” He told me his station is listenable for only some five hours a day.

He may be the most prominent critic right now, Savage said, but he’s not the only one.

“Martin Stabbert is not an idiot. Bob Neil has concerns. I’m so frustrated. It’s just wrong,” he said, referring to concerns about interference among executives at Citadel and Cox Radio, respectively. “Our business is being destroyed by this.”

Savage told me he offered WBZ, a CBS station, three potential solutions: They could give him an STA for a nighttime power increase; buy his station and turn it off (with no specific price mentioned) or turn off IBOC at night.

A CBS Radio spokeswoman declined comment, as did an FCC official I queried.

Meanwhile Savage also wrote NAB President/CEO David Rehr about this issue. After receiving an e-mail newsletter from Rehr about performance royalties, Savage wrote back to Rehr in strong language: “The NAB conspired with major group broadcasters and with Ibiquity to totally throw stations like WYSL under the HD-AM bus. Thanks to the wonderful National Association of Broadcasters our very existence is threatened — not that you people care.” Savage is not an NAB member.

Rehr responded to Savage in an e-mail shared with me by NAB Radio Department EVP John David. Rehr said NAB does care about independent radio operators and said it had tried to reach out to Savage several times this year to discuss his concerns and membership.

“We are very interested in collecting anecdotal reports about the experiences of stations with operation of AM IBOC at night, both positive and negative, and will consider the input you have provided,” Rehr said.

Let's Have a Reality Check on IBOC

Owner/Engineer Says HD-R Is Never Going to Work

by Larry Langford, 12.19.2007
The author is president and chief engineer of Langford Broadcast LLC, licensee of WGTO(AM), Cassopolis, Mich. and WDOW(AM), Dowagiac, Mich.

As an owner/engineer who has been around this crazy business since the ‘60s, I think I can offer some insight into all this IBOC talk.

At first glance it seemed Ibiquity did everything right. They pulled together several teams to design the digital scheme and got major broadcasters to get behind it.

Ibiquity then designed a perpetual income machine with user fees. But suddenly it became loud and clear, like an old 10-bell bulletin on a teletype machine: For AM it’s not working.

Yes, I can hear the supporters say, “Sure it works. We just have to work out the bugs and give it time to catch on.” And they are so quick to point out how long it took FM to really catch on.

To use that as a benchmark is not only dumb, it’s stupid.

Battle for the Band: AM IBOC Under Siege

Nighttime Hash Complaints Slow Deployment & Operation of HD on AM Band, Raise Doubts About Success

by Guy Wire, 12.05.2007

The interference fallout of full-time AM HD operations has been scattered and largely anecdotal. According to reports in RW, only one formal complaint has been filed as of this writing. By the time you read this, there likely will be others.

The AM HD rollout has attracted only about 225 licensed stations, mainly the wide-area coverage powerhouses and stations that also bought in early to the promise of 15 kHz stereo. About 175 are operational daytime while less than 70 are thought to be operating at night. That’s less than 2 percent of the total inventory of U.S. AM stations.

Citadel/ABC has kept its AM HD flamethrowers like WABC, WJR and WBAP analog only at night while Cox is still choosing to keep all its AM stations’ IBOC exciters turned off full-time. Clear Channel and CBS still have the majority of their AM stations unequipped for HD.

Many think the handwriting is on the wall and AM HD is in deep trouble.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

DEAD AIR: Radio's great leap forward stalling in the Valley

Local radio broadcasters have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new technology to compete with satellite radio and iPods, but almost no one in the Rio Grande Valley is listening.

Retailers say no one is buying HD radios in South Texas despite scattered attempts by broadcasters to promote the digital signal technology, which gives clearer sound and allows stations to send out “sub-channels” of music and information.

HD Radio Has Yet To Take Off

DALLAS -- Dozens of stations in North Texas are broadcasting in high definition, but few people have the radios to receive it.

Patrick Davis of 106.1 KISS FM, one of 25 stations broadcasting in high definition, said HD radio offers pure digital quality.

"Your favorite radio station comes in crystal clear," he said.

Each radio station can also broadcast side channels, adding nearly 100 more radio stations to choose from in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"Our HD 2 channel is Pride Radio," Davis said. "It's nothing but dance music and stuff like that."

The additional channels are mostly commercial-free.

The only cost to listen to HD radio is the initial purchase of a player. Prices start at $150.

"The advantage is, there's no fees," Johnnell Robertson, of Radio Shack, said. "There's no subscription fees. It's absolutely free."

HD radio is designed to compete against satellite radio, Robertson said.

But the technology hasn't taken off as expected. NBC 5 could not find one person who owns a hi-def radio and neither could KISS FM's program director.

"I don't know anybody that has one yet," Davis said. "What we're trying to do is just raise awareness that HD radio is out there."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

NPR Shop: Home » Radios » HD Radios

HD Digital Radio features more programming choices and dramatically better digital sound quality, and it's free. If your local station is broadcasting in digital, all you need is an HD Radio receiver.

{ed.: "and it's free!" Radios from $130-$250!]

Saturday, December 8, 2007

2007 Digital Media Losers

2007 Digital Media Losers
By Richard Menta 12/8/07

1. HD Radio
Why has HD Radio failed to take off? Why does it have lackluster word of mouth? After reviewing several units we found out why.

The makers of the radio units themselves cheaped out on the tuners, which have such poor sensitivity, both a beat-up $20 Sony shower radio and a vintage 1941 Zenith kitchen radio bettered them. What good is an HD receiver when you can barely tune into either analog or HD signals? A perfect example of where $200-$600 buys you inferior quality. Here is a technology adopted by thousands of radio stations - at significant expense - only to be undermined by the radio manufacturers. HD Radio may get a reprieve as Ford offered to put it in all 2008 vehicles. Hopefully, the receivers Ford puts into its automobiles have more sensitive tuners. If they don't, HD radio risks going the way of 8-track tapes and Quadraphonic Sound records.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

McLarnon: Enough is Enough

December 5, 2007

Adjacent-channel AM IBOC nighttime interference is not mild

Each and every one of those digital subcarriers contributes to the generation of audible noise in an AM receiver tuned to the first-adjacent channel of an IBOC station, and they must all be considered in any interference analysis.

Featured in the Dec 5 2007 online edition of Radio World Magazine. To read the magazine please click on the magazine image, and go to page 5. Note: this link may only work for the current week.

In Search of an HD-R Receiver

by Richard Factor, 10.24.2007

I love radio.

The company at which I strive makes technical radio products, including one for HD Radio. I have been reading about HD Radio for years. I have been listening to ads on a local station for their HD-R channels for more than a year and have checked out IBOC signals on a number of my beautiful spectrum analyzers.

And yet: I had never, not even for an instant, ever heard an HD-R channel, so I decided to purchase one.

Rational Discussion or Luddite Rants?

One Reader Gripes, ‘You Would Have a Better Chance of Resolving the Middle East Conflict Than Getting The Anti-HD Radio AM Group to Have a Rational Discussion About It’

by Paul J. McLane, 11.21.2007
Paul McLane is the Editor in Chief of Radio World US.

“Just taking a run-through of the latest Radio World issue, Oct. 10, and what do I find at the back of the mag? Yet another anti-HD Radio rant by yet another AM Luddite.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Radio World Online - Hear It Now: IBOC Disappoints (Letter)

I made a series of short recordings at my cottage at Klinger Lake near White Pigeon, Mich., on the evening of Sept. 19, 2007.

We are roughly 130 miles from these transmitters (WSM, WBBM, WGN, WSCR, WHAS, WJR and WLW). Normally in this area, we can receive all of the Chicago 50 kW stations with a good listenable signal, day or night.

The recordings were made using a Zoom H4 recorder and a GE Superadio III. I made the recordings acoustically because I did this on the spur of the moment, and that also allowed me to say a few words to identify the stations. I have a series of about 12 recordings of a number of stations, including two additional files of WGN and WBBM.

What I found was that in the evening, the IBOC noise sidebands from adjacent-channel stations over on the East Coast were so strong that at times, they completely wiped out the 50 kW Chicago stations that can normally be heard very well in my area. In other cases, the noise was just really annoying.

I listened on other evenings the past week, and the results were the same. What you hear on the recordings is typical of reception in this area. In some cases, it’s even worse — the adjacent-channel interference completely obliterates the desired station only about 130 miles from the city.

IBOC is a failed technology that has no place on the AM dial. It is a huge disaster. If this is the future of AM radio, I will not be listening. There are too many other, better alternatives now!

By the way, WGN sounds bad even in Chicago during the daytime. There is always a hiss in the background. I haven’t measured it, but I’ll bet it’s not even 30 dB down.

Edgar Reihl

Northbrook, Ill.

Keeping Good Time

The HD Radio system has an inherent audio delay due to the processing time required in the receiver. Because of this delay, when a station operates in hybrid mode, the analog audio must be delayed to match the digital audio signal so the blend function from analog to digital and back is smooth and transparent. In October, Brian Beezley, an engineer in southern California, applied his passion for RF to evaluate the current state of HD Radio time alignment for the more than 30 stations that he is able to receive at his home. The stations cover the Los Angeles and San Diego markets.

When the time delay is not set properly, the resulting effect can be an annoyance to the listener. When the difference is small, a comb filter effect is applied to the audio. In extreme cases — like that when there is no time delay at all — the digital transition will repeat the previous 8 seconds of audio.

Beezley's results did not show well. A table showing the measured variations is posted on his website at

Radio World Online - Editorial: AM IBOC in Distress?

Some people predicted an “IBOCalypse” when AM HD operations went full-time on Sept. 14. The band would drown in a sea of digital hash, digital doomsdayers warned. 

It didn’t happen, at least not yet. But there is plenty to worry about on the AM IBOC front.

First, let’s all agree that not enough stations have been transmitting HD Radio at night to provide a realistic evaluation of the consequences. That argues for calm, although the low activation rate is itself also a measure of the problem; if the system met the needs of AM broadcasters they should be jumping on it.

Citadel Director of Corporate Engineering Martin Stabbert embodied questions about the efficacy of full-time AM HD when he ordered all his AMs that had already converted to cease transmitting HD at night, using language that must have given Ibiquity officials heartburn. Separately and for different immediate reasons, Cox, in a “let’s wait and see” move, has tried HD on most of its AM stations but is taking it off the air day and night, once tested at each facility. 

Radio Magazine: Open Mic - Eye on IBOC

When the FCC Rules allowed AM stations to transmit IBOC signals at night, concerns were raised about the potential interference that would result to all analog stations in AM band. In the end, there hasn't been the doom and gloom destruction of AM radio from nighttime IBOC use, and Radio magazine research has found mixed experiences relating to actual received interference.

Within days after Sept. 14, the day AM stations were allowed to transmit IBOC at night, Citadel Broadcasting Director of Corporate Engineering Martin Stabbert issued a memo to Citadel's AM IBOC stations that transmitted a signal at night. The memo instructed stations to cease nighttime transmissions because of interference issues. We talked to Stabbert about the memo and the interference problem to help set the record straight.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Rochester Station Says IBOC Interferes

In what is thought to be the first AM nighttime IBOC interference complaint filed with the FCC, Radio Livingston Ltd., licensee of WYSL in Upstate New York, claims that adjacent-channel IBOC noise from WBZ in Boston is interfering with its daytime and nighttime signals.

Observers are interested in the outcome of this case, which presents a face-off between a small standalone AM owner vocally opposed to IBOC on one side of the complaint, against a group-owned, big-market station owned by IBOC pioneer CBS Radio on the other.

Central to this case is whether the alleged interference is within WYSL’s protected contour; the station says it is. CBS-owned WBZ isn’t commenting publicly on the case.

The FCC said in its IBOC authorization text this year that interference cases would be handled case-by-case. A commission spokesman told RW then that mitigation in such cases could include the agency telling a station to lower the power level in one or both of digital sidebands, or even turning off the nighttime AM IBOC altogether.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

HD. Yes … But.

Yes, (from Paragon’s ‘07 HD study) 42% have heard of HD Radio.
But … Only one-in-three can identify any HD station. Stations

Yes, QVC was retailing HD Radios to more than 160 million homes.
But … Just 500 were sold.

Yes, The average QVC price for a HD Radio was $337.66.
But … Listeners want to pay only about $50.00. BuyHd

Yes, Ford will be offering HD Radios over their full line in 2008.
But … You’ll have to pay extra for it. I-pod dock, leather seats, or HD Radio? Hmmm.

Yes, Listeners who already have a HD Radio would buy another one.
But … There aren’t enough of them to make a ripple. purchase

Yes, HD makes AM stations sound a lot better.
But … Interference at night is a big problem (see Comment #3).

Yes, When listeners understand what HD Radio is and what it can do, most might think about buying one. buy
But … Obviously the massive promotion to date hasn’t come close to doing the job. hd-awareness.pdf

Have You Heard of...

When you ask, “Have you heard of HD Radio?” there is lots and lots of silence. Just like a Marcel Marceau performance.