HD Radio: “We’re Still Here”

After its lackluster appearance at the NAB Show earlier this year, HD Radio‘s new owners, DTS Inc., are trying mightily to demonstrate that the technology remains a viable future for broadcast radio. In May, DTS announced its first-quarter financials, representing the first full quarter of its ownership of iBiquity. As expected, the acquisition had a positive effect on DTS’ bottom line, no doubt from the revenue stream involving licensing HD receivers in cars (for which the company gets paid as much as $12 per unit).

Presently, however, HD Radio is found in just 37% of all new vehicles sold in the United States — a far cry from widespread penetration, but more than enough to move the needle in DTS’ ledgers. According to a company conference call earlier this year, the acquisition of HD Radio is part of a pivot by DTS away from developing/acquiring audio enhancement systems for home entertainment technologies (which are on the decline) and toward the mobile and portable device spaces (which are growing mightily). By the end of 2016, DTS expects its automotive division (which includes HD Radio) to account for some 40% of all revenues. Read More

HD Proponents Seek Protection for “No New Spectrum”

An interesting trial-balloon was floated last month in Radio World. In it, John Kean, one of the founding employees of NPR Labs (who was let go in a reshuffle this past August) suggested that the FCC’s spectrum allocation rules be revised to better “protect” FM-HD Radio sideband signals.

Before going any further, it’s best to cover some history. HD Radio was adopted by the FCC in 2000 primarily on the premise that the system used “no new spectrum.” In fact, FM-HD signals double the spectral footprint of FM stations — but HD’s proponents got around this by appropriating fallow spectrum the FCC leaves between stations as the stations’ own allocation. Read More

AM Broadcasters Still Seek Translators, Digital Authorization

When the FCC announced the creation of an “AM Revitalization Initiative” in 2013, the proposal included a grab-bag of industry desires, such as the right for AM stations to utilize FM translators and for AM stations to move from hybrid analog/digital broadcasting to the all-digital AM-HD protocol. But to the consternation of industry lobbyists and HD-backers there’s been no movement on this initiative — so now they’re beginning to whine about it.

Case in point is a commentary published in late June by Frank Montero, an attorney at D.C. communications law powerhouse Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, which laments that AM broadcasters are being held hostage without access to FM translators and accuses the FCC of playing political football with the future of AM itself. It’s full of questionable assertions and revisionist history. Read More

LPFM vs. HD Radio: The Curious Case of KGIG

At the turn of the twenty-first century, proponents of HD Radio sold the technology to the FCC by claiming that it used “no new spectrum.” Advocates of low-power FM (LPFM) radio made a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to this claim. They worried that the digital sidebands of FM-HD signals would interfere with the new wave of community stations the FCC was preparing to unleash. HD supporters dismissed these concerns.

Ten years after both HD and LPFM took to the air, the conflict between the two services is crystal clear.

Brad Johnson is a lot like me: a former participant in the corporate media who made the decision to step away from it following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. One of the careers decimated by post-Telecom radio consolidation was broadcast engineering – Brad was the chief engineer at several Citadel and Clear Channel-owned stations in central California until he was let go in the repeated rounds of downsizing the companies conducted during their station-buying frenzy. Read More

Leaving the Ground? Shut It Down

This story flew under my radar, probably because it was published in USA Today, which is not necessarily known for its in-depth investigative journalism.

The bottom line: f*cking with your smartphone on an airplane has a clear potential for danger. The report uncovered nearly three dozen incidents of interference from onboard passenger electronic devices last year. The interference affected communications and navigational systems; though none resulted in an accident, critical flight-management systems were compromised. Read More