Debunking the Prometheus Top 10 Problems with HD Radio

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The Prometheus Radio Project, a non-profit organization founded by a small group of radio activists in 1998, builds, supports, and advocates for community radio stations. Primary the goals of the organization are to "demystify technologies, the political process that governs access to our media system, and the effects of media on our lives and our communities." Unfortunately, its effort to demystify the technology is not always accurate.

For example, the group recently posted a document titled Top Ten Problems with HD Radio. This document attempts to show the flaws with the HD Radio system, however, there are flaws in the Prometheus logic and science.

This references the Prometheus article. While portions are copied here, the complete text is available at the Prometheus site. The Prometheus questions are included, but only part of the Prometheus answer may appear.

1. If you don't already own a radio station, HD Radio isn't for you.
Prometheus says "In its current form, HD Radio is available only to the tiny world of incumbent broadcasters." Actually, it's available to any AM or FM broadcast who licenses the technology. The group tries to paint low-power stations as being a completely different technology than full-power stations. It's all the same spectrum and all the same transmission technology. The 'in it's current form' is an easy way for Prometheus to give itself a way out of this argument.

Prometheus also claims "But with no risk of competition from new entrants, HD radio isn't likely to have programming that's all that much more diverse than what you already hear. HD Radio (as it's currently conceived) doesn't open media access to new voices." First, HD Radio wasn't designed to provide access for new voices on the airwaves. It was designed to digitize and enhance existing services. Second, with the addition of multicasting, FM stations with HD Radio could provide alternative programming if they want. Because radio broadcasting is a business (even for non-profits) with real costs to operate, there has to be some level of mass appeal. I agree that many stations are overly conservative in their programming choices, and multicasting provides a way to loosen that grip.

2. It doesn't actually work yet.
It doesn't? 1,200 stations are on the air right now.

The better statement would be 'It's doesn't work perfectly yet.'

We already know that digital coverage is sometimes less than analog coverage, although the digital coverage at -20dBc usually meets the protected contour. The idea of increasing the digital sidebands to as much as -10dBc will extend the digital coverage indoors and help emulate the coverage beyond the protected contour.

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