After breaking the story about General Motors abandoning HD Radio in several makes and models, I watched with interest to see what the industry reaction would be.
When Radio Ink publisher Eric Rhoads breathlessly reported in March 2013 that auto manufacturers were considering doing away with AM/FM radios in their glass dashboards, the reaction was disbelief. But new developments are undeniable: BMW announced the specs of two of its new electric vehicles earlier this month, and neither include AM radio (or a CD player).
BMW says the cars’ electric motor interferes with AM reception. Could this become a trend among other electric-powered vehicles? Broadcasters obviously hope not, and the NAB has reached out to BMW asking it to reconsider. Coupled with Disney’s recent decision to get out of AM broadcasting, one wonders if the oldest broadcast band is inexorably shuffling toward obsolescence.
When HD Radio was under development and policy-discussions on the technology were in their infancy, proponents of the system bragged about all of the game-changing features it would have. This included audio quality that sounded better than CD and the ability to broadcast a plethora of digital data beyond audio itself.
They also told us that digital radio signals would be more robust and easier to receive than their analog counterparts. This was a critical assertion, because HD Radio works by shoehorning digital signals onto the existing AM and FM bands, right next to analog ones, and thus to avoid interference the HD signal can only be broadcast at just a fraction of a station’s analog power output. But proponents said that was okay: HD Radio only needed a fraction of the power to kick ass and blow minds.
It’s been a busy year for iBiquity Digital Corporation in court, as it fends off attacks on its HD Radio patents and licensing structure. In both cases, iBiquity seems to have dodged a few bullets and may even have the upper hand. However, they also illustrate the tenuous nature of HD’s adoptive trajectory.
A couple of weeks ago, Radio World‘s Leslie Stimson contacted me for some thoughts on HD Radio as part of a "status report" the newspaper was working on. That turned out to be a 35-page "e-book" in which the "skeptics" and "critics" got three pages sandwiched between some "sponsored content" from iBiquity and a piece from the company’s director of broadcast sales singing the praises of the "HD Radio-On-Translator play."
While I’m glad that Radio World considers me a "responsible viewpoint" in the ongoing digital radio transition, it’s a bit unnerving to be tossed into the "haters" camp so nonchalantly. So here’s the entirety of what I wrote Stimson when she asked for comments: