Sunday, March 12, 2006
HD Radio-MYTHS AND FACTS
The broadcast industry continues to spread lies about the alleged “advantages” that the system being pushed by the Federal Communications Commission, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, IBOC-DAB (In-Band, On-Channel Digital Audio Broadcasting) has over analog radio. Here are the REAL FACTS concerning IBOC-DAB.
MYTH: “IBOC is compatible with our current receivers”
FACT: IBOC-DAB is NOT COMPATIBLE with our current receivers. If you have a station broadcasting in a “hybrid” format (IBOC and analog), the sidebands from IBOC signals waste valuable spectrum space (as we’ll go into detail on later). Remove the superior analog signal, then all you’ll hear is “hash”. It’s the same thing with the European system, Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM). Our current receivers do not have the circuitry to decode the inferior-quality IBOC signals. In other words, if there is a forced conversion to IBOC, then American consumers will have to shell out hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars that they DO NOT HAVE to buy new, inferior receivers. The alternatives are:
1) Require the inclusion of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) circuitry in new analog receivers.
2) Finding a separate band above 1 GHz (1000 MHz) for digital audio broadcasting.
3) Forcing the FCC, NAB and CPB to accept more competition.
MYTH: “IBOC is spectrally efficient”
FACT: IBOC is SPECTRALLY INEFFICIENT. IBOC-DAB, as indicated before, wastes valuable spectrum space. IBOC-DAB, depending on how far you are from a particular station, can waste as much as 100 kHz of valuable spectrum space on the AM dial. As much as 800 kHz of valuable spectrum space is wasted on the FM dial. Take the only St. Louis area AM radio station currently testing this inferior system at this time, KFUO (850 kHz) Clayton, MO. How does KFUO stack up (analog vs. IBOC)? The Results can be found at this link. KMOX is also threatening to go IBOC. How will the potential threat be measured? Five FM stations in St. Louis are also testing IBOC. How do they stack up? The results for the FM dial can be found at this link. Analog broadcasting is more spectrally efficient; only taking up 20 kHz of space on the AM band, and 200 kHz of space on the FM band. Analog radio conserves spectrum space.
MYTH: “IBOC is the only method capable of CD-quality sound”
FACT: C-QUAM AM Stereo and FM Stereo are ALREADY CAPABLE of CD-quality sound. The separation on FM Stereo already rivals those of CDs, while the best-engineered C-QUAM AM Stereo stations also feature sound quality that rivals CDs. IBOC-DAB sounds like an Internet radio station heard via dial-up modem. Analog radio (especially the current FM Stereo and the proven C-QUAM AM Stereo systems) has SUPERIOR AUDIO QUALITY over IBOC-DAB. There is no need for IBOC-DAB.
MYTH: “There is a market for IBOC receivers”
FACT: There is NO MARKET for IBOC-DAB receivers. No audiophile, in his or her right mind, would invest a minimum of U$900 in an inferior IBOC receiver, when top-of-the-line analog receivers are less expensive. IBOC threatens to price many consumers out of the radio marketplace. Unlike DVDs and CDs, the price of IBOC receivers will never come down. We’re seeing this with HDTV: the prices aren’t coming down (the cheapest HDTV set right now is U$700). American consumers, as stated earlier, cannot afford to replace their current receivers. There are already 25 million C-QUAM AM Stereo receivers in the marketplace; there’s room for more. Besides, C-QUAM is less expensive than IBOC, not only for receivers, but also for audio transmission.
MYTH: “The L-Band is not for broadcasting in the U.S.”
FACT: The L-Band (1452-1492 MHz) is ASSIGNED WORLDWIDE to digital audio broadcasting. The current occupants of the L-Band in the United States, the Department of Defense, is in violation of international regulations by using this band for non-broadcast purposes. This is the most appropriate place for digital audio broadcasting in the United States. The FCC can (and MUST) find higher frequencies for the DoD to use.
MYTH: “IBOC will increase a station’s signal coverage area”
FACT: IBOC will SIGNIFICANTLY DECREASE a station’s signal coverage area. Take a look at the FM dial in the St. Louis market. Three stations with decent coverage into the St. Louis area, WIBI (91.1 FM) Carlinville, IL, KTJJ (98.5 FM) Farmington, MO and WSMI-FM (106.1) Litchfield, IL, would suffer severely reduced coverage; in other words, these stations would have their coverage areas reduced by as much as 95%. KTJJ, with 100 kW of power, currently covers a 90-mile radius around the transmitter site near Doe Run, MO. With IBOC, the signal won’t be able to reach Park Hills. WIBI and WSMI-FM, with 50 kW of power, covers a 72-mile radius around their transmitter sites. With IBOC, their signals won’t reach nearby towns. Even the 50 kW AM stations will lose most of their coverage; from 750 miles at night to a round-the-clock radius of only 25 miles. In other words, KMOX wouldn’t be able to reach the western suburbs if they converted to IBOC; something they can do easily now in analog mode. A 1 kW Class D local channel station, such as WESL in East St. Louis, IL, which currently covers a 15-mile radius in analog mode, will cover less than a mile in IBOC mode.
MYTH: “IBOC will make radio better”
FACT: IBOC will make radio MUCH WORSE. Not only will the sound quality of many radio stations degrade, along with signal coverage, but the balance of views and independent voices will be negatively affected. Independently-owned radio stations, many of which currently provide a viable alternative to the uninspired programming on corporate radio, will disappear if IBOC is forcibly implemented. Christian radio is also being threatened by IBOC; many Christian radio stations, which are ministry outreaches rather than businesses, will also go off the air. Most seriously affected will be college radio; these stations provide the only alternatives for young audiences to boring programming on corporate-controlled radio. College radio also provides the only on-air training grounds for future personalities. Many college radio stations won’t be able to afford the IBOC transmitters or exciters that they would be forced to purchase if they are to remain on the air. A good number of them are low-powered (less than 1 kW of effective radiated power); they would not be able to cover areas off campus if they are forced to switch to IBOC.
WHAT’S THE REAL PROBLEM WITH RADIO? The problem with radio is not the technology: IT’S THE PROGRAMMING. Many music formats are intangible (such as Classic Hits, Rhythmic Oldies and Active Rock); the jocks that present the format are not very knowledgeable about the music they play. These same jocks are not knowledgeable about the towns they’re serving. Voicetracking has been the biggest deception to hit radio; this does not deliver listeners. Most of the voicetracked shifts are produced outside the market by jocks who know nothing about the market’s they are supposedly “serving”. In addition, commercial talk radio has veered too far to the extreme right. Air America provides the only liberal talk programming, while NPR’s talk shows are the only centrist talk programs left on radio anywhere. There isn’t enough local-oriented talk on the radio; especially a talk format focused on suburban issues (which so-called “mainstream” talk radio neglects).
XM and Sirius Satellite Radio is the only major competition that has come along since the insipid Telecom Act went into effect, although both channels offer the same old programming. Shortwave broadcasting should be pushed as an alternative to AM and FM radio. The FCC should require that all receivers that receive AM and FM radio that are priced at more than $25 include circuitry for decoding C-QUAM AM Stereo, DSP circuitry, and at least four shortwave broadcast bands (with three bands required: 19, 31 and 49 meters, or 15, 9 and 6 MHz).
Radio is also desperately in need of hiring reforms: the most important reform needed is the abandonment of patronage and cronyism. This policy, also known as “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know” has allowed unqualified broadcasters to slip through the cracks. There should also be a limit to the amount of on-air talent a station can bring in from outside the market (especially in Midwestern markets), and through a permanent ban on voicetracking (especially in our nation’s top 100 markets) on FM and more profitable AM stations, the industry will be able to open up the broadcast job market, which is desperately needed to save the medium.
The biggest reform needed is the restoration of ownership limits, which promotes free speech. More owners mean more ideas, more opinions and more variety in programming. It is in the best interests of broadcasting to deconsolidate, not further consolidate.
The FCC, NAB and CPB should be focused more on reforming the business than killing it with this insipid IBOC-DAB plan. Those that support IBOC-DAB should seriously consider LEAVING THE RADIO BUSINESS. They are not real broadcasters. Only those who support improving analog radio are the real broadcasters.