HD Radio Still in Stasis, But Has New Friend at FCC

2017 came and went with no great movement in the HD Radio space. According to FCC records, fewer than 2,000 FM stations have received authorization to broadcast in HD, which represents an adoption rate of 15% – a number that has not changed significantly during this decade.

On the AM side, although some 240 stations (5%) are authorized to broadcast in HD, this curated list shows that about half of them have abandoned the protocol. Penetration of HD receivers into the automotive space remains at just under half of all new cars sold in the United States and there’s still no meaningful market for non-automative portable receivers.

Yet the broadcast industry would rather you believe that HD is thriving. A new “e-book” from the folks at Radio World, New Directions for HD Radio, contains useful information about ways to optimize the system, including making sure that the analog and digital signals are properly time-aligned, the necessity of seamless audio processing across the airchain, and National Association of Broadcasters effort to standardize the broadcast of metadata on HD signals. One would think those core operational principles would’ve been hammered out nearly twenty years ago when the technology was first authorized for deployment, but it was more important to the industry to make a digital beachhead on the airwaves than it was to deploy something that worked out of the box. Read More

Firming the Foundation for an All-Digital AM Mandate

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. Read More

Greasing the Skids for AM’s Digital Transition

The National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention just wrapped up in Las Vegas, and HD Radio proponents used the event to begin the push to make the AM dial all-digital.

At a panel on "AM Band Revitalization" moderated by Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai – the first Commissioner to moderate a panel at the NAB Show – CBS Radio Senior Vice President of Engineering Glynn Walden told attendees that there was no sustainable future for analog AM broadcasting and that the FCC should set a date for an "for a digital AM sunrise and for an analog AM sunset."

Walden has been one of the broadcast industry’s point-people on HD Radio from the very beginning. He helped develop the system’s core technical design and specifications, co-founded the company from which iBiquity Digital Corporation was born, and was instrumental in lobbying the FCC to approve HD as the U.S. digital radio standard. With three HD patents to his name, Walden would like nothing more than to see his baby actually fly after languishing all these years. Read More