Digital PowerRadio Dispute: The Downside of Closed Systems

There’s been an interesting story playing itself out over the last month involving a company’s claims of discovering a way to dramatically improve reception of HD Radio signals.

Florida-based DigitalPower Radio announced in late March that it has developed a computational method that allows radio receivers a stronger lock on AM- and FM-HD signals, especially in areas where there might be analog-to-digital interference. Challenging conditions such as these have been detrimental to the robustness of HD signals more generally, for which the (FM) power increase implemented by some stations a couple of years ago only partially helped.

This improvement might be especially helpful in portable and mobile devices, as the change is made on a chip in the HD receiver, not on the transmission side. Read More

ZoneCasting Technology and Costs Detailed

It first seemed to come out of nowhere: a Texas-based company announced last year that it had developed a system it calls "ZoneCasting," which would allow FM radio stations to subdivide their primary coverage area into specific locales using FM booster stations. Each "zone" would serve up geo-targeted advertising.

An initial proposal to the FCC from ZoneCasting’s proprietor, Geo-Broadcast Solutions, asking for a rule-change governing FM boosters (to allow them to originate programming) attracted hardly any comment from within the radio industry. Many broadcast engineers initially seemed skeptical that ZoneCasting could work in a real-world environment.

Things have changed significantly over the course of a year. Read More

HD Radio’s Latest “Killer App” Isn’t Radio

Radio World has awarded Paul Brenner its 2012 Excellence in Engineering award. Brenner, the senior VP and chief technology officer for Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications, has been the industry’s latest point-person regarding innovations involving HD Radio. He’s led the development of a prototype smartphone with FM-HD reception capability as well as an application that melds radio reception with “value-added” content delivered over the cellular network.

Brenner’s also president of the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium – an alliance of some two dozen radio companies who, along with NPR, are exploring ways to use digital radio signals to deliver real-time traffic information. Brenner estimates that there are about 12 million navigation devices in use that utilize radio to receive traffic data, and that figure’s growing by about 1-2 million per year. Read More

NPR: Where New Ideas Go to Die?

Public radio broadcasters in the U.S. are coming to grips with the announcement from Tom and Ray Magliozzi that they plan to retire from Car Talk, one of National Public Radio’s most popular (and lucrative) programs, this fall.

“Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” have been doing the show for 25 years. Although they’ll be done, Car Talk itself will remain on the air with shows assembled from the archives (one of the producers, a former colleague of mine, says they’ve got wide discretion to pick and choose what will air and when).

There’s been some controversy over whether it makes sense to actually keep running Car Talk since all the content will be rehashed. Ira Glass, founding producer of This American Life (a program that, ironically, NPR declined to syndicate), thinks airing reconstituted shows makes for bad programming precedent on NPR more generally. Read More

Skids Greased for Further FM-HD Experimentation

The FCC’s put a proposal by iBiquity, NPR, and NAB out for public comment that would allow FM-HD broadcasters more flexibility to increase the power levels of their digital sidebands independently. Called asymmetrical transmission, this flexibility conceivably allows more HD-enabled stations to pump up the power of their digital signals to make them reliably receivable in a station’s primary coverage area.

All signs are that the comment/reply comment rigmarole in this instance is a formality. As at least one industry lawyer has noted, the fact that the FCC’s scheduled the comment period for a short three weeks before Christmas – and a week for reply-comments to be filed between Christmas and the new year – means there is little likelihood that a robust record of public debate will be assembled over this latest wrinkle in the HD Radio saga. Read More