Digital Radio Update - July 5, 2006


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Index:

  • Digital Audio Flag Waves over Senate--For Now
  • Audio Media Use Patterns Differ with Format/Genre
  • BE Sells First HD System in Europe
  • Sirius/XM Integrated Receivers May Arrive Soon
  • IBOC by State: Delaware
  • HD Radio: An Emerging World Standard?
  • An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio

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    News

    Digital Audio Flag Waves over Senate--For Now
    A communications bill provision that would task the FCC with organizing an industry-based board to work out details for an anti-copy "flag" requirement on all digitally broadcast content has survived debate in the Senate Commerce Committee, led by Alaska Republican Ted Stevens. According to C/NET, the committee, which also turned away from including a controversial net neutrality provision, supports a requirement that all digital audio/visual content distributed via broadcast, cable or broadband services be flagged to prevent unauthorized duplication.

    But a codified set of rules requiring broadcasters to insert anti-piracy protection is far from being a done deal. The Commerce Committee's actions still require a full vote in the Senate as well as reconciliation with a similar bill in the House of Representatives that includes no language requiring the digital flag. And Senate Republican John Sununu of New Hampshire has openly stated that he may introduce an amendment to stifle a flag requirement on the grounds that it might "actually discourage innovation and discourage different products from coming into the market."

    Debate over the issue has shifted back and forth across Congress since a federal court held in favor of a freedom-of-information group lawsuit that asserted the FCC exceeded its authority when it imposed a digital flag requirement on digital TV broadcasters.


    Audio Media Use Patterns Differ with Format/Genre
    While conventional radio continues to lose TSL to personal audio players, online streaming or podcast audio services, a new study released by research group Bridge Ratings suggests that those losses vary significantly with musical genre and radio format preference. The study, which sampled media use patterns among a sample of 4,000 radio listeners nationwide, indicates that the impact of disparate audio media technology use among listeners varies with the type of technology, as well as by musical genre preference. For example, among those listeners who use MP3 players, radio use may actually increase among some who prefer alternative and adult music genres, while CHR and rock listeners are likely to tune in to radio less.

    The study found that one alternate delivery system, podcasting, actually favors an increase of radio listening among 58 percent of respondents who report using the technology.

    Of all the technologies that compete with broadcast radio for listener time, none has had a greater negative impact on broadcast radio TSL than online streaming audio services, where more than 55 percent of respondents who report using Internet radio say that it decreases their time spent with broadcast radio.


    Business

    BE Sells First HD System in Europe
    Broadcast Electronics (BE) has sold its first HD Radio transmission system in Europe. The announcement comes on the heel of several months of HD Radio testing in Lucerne Switzerland-–the result of a joint venture between BE and privately owned FM broadcaster Radio Sunshine. Permission to operate the station in the digital hybrid mode was granted on a voluntary basis by the Switzerland Office of Communication.

    Radio Sunshine principal owner Markus Ruoss announced plans to purchase the technology after test results indicated the system met or exceeded performance criteria established by his company. Ruoss indicated that his firm's application of HD Radio might expand to include some of Radio Sunshine's 12 booster/translator outlets. HD Radio trials are also taking place in Poland and France.


    Sirius/XM Integrated Receivers May Arrive Soon
    Who says satellite radio fans can't have it all? According to Orbitcast, a blog devoted to satcasting, consumers craving a potpourri of programming offered by Sirius and XM may soon have a one-box solution to satisfy their desire for more diversity on the dial, courtesy of a little known technology start-up firm.

    Formed in 2003 with the aim of creating a fully interoperable satellite receiver, Interactive Technologies has reportedly received financial and technical support from both U.S. satellite radio providers. The company, which has no plans to actually produce retail product, has developed and refined an integrated tuner design that will be made available to existing receiver manufacturers for integration into their respective product lines.

    The move reflects musings by XM and Sirius management that both companies would benefit from the introduction of a merged platform device, citing research that some consumer resistance to the technology stems from fear of purchasing the wrong system, similar to the Beta/VHS video dichotomy of the 1980s. The ability to purchase a single radio that would receive either signal would likely ease buyer anxiety, and expedite full OEM integration of satellite receivers in new vehicles.

    Interoperable Technologies suggests that the first cross-platform receivers might ship as early as Christmas 2006.


    IBOC Across America

    IBOC by State: Delaware
    Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by state will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.

    MarketStationHD1 FormatHD2 FormatHD3 FormatOwner
    DoverWRTX-FM 91.7Clscl/Jazz--Temple University
    WilmingtonWSTW-FM 93.7CHRWDEL-AM-Delmarva Broadcasting Company

    Eye on IBOC

    HD Radio: An Emerging World Standard?
    Recent announcements of HD Radio trials taking place in far-flung continents such as Europe, Asia, and South America have given pause to those of us who have followed the long and tortuous progress of digital broadcast radio during the past quarter century or so. Bold predictions have come and gone, and in 2006, the picture is nothing like we imagined it would be even one decade earlier. At that juncture, many veteran engineers, this one included, had assumed that most of the world would now be listening to digital radio via Eureka 147 DAB.

    In-band on-channel digital radio, a seemingly maverick pursuit by the American radio industry, was well behind schedule and eclipsed by the seismic impact of the Telecom Act of 1996. With the massive consolidation that followed and runaway radio stock prices, few radio owners paid much attention to digital radio developments. Then, the stock market correction of 2000 changed everything. Suddenly, radio ownership groups had to refocus on operating. Getting big was no longer as important as staying profitable--and competitive. America finally got serious about digital broadcasting as Americans began getting Sirius.

    Around the globe, a different set of dynamics were in play. Privatization of electronic media, relatively new in many nations, built momentum. While governments and consortiums hashed out new band and channel plans for DAB networks, entrepreneurs built conventional FM outlets in unprecedented numbers. And with the exception of the UK, many DAB systems found slow growth in terms of receiver penetration, even in the relatively affluent nations of northern Europe.

    So here we are. Profitable privately owned analog broadcast groups are examining their options for an economical and expedient way to make the digital transition on their own. No new national networks required, and backward compatibility with an embedded base of receivers assured. HD Radio, even with its limitations, is indeed getting a global second look.


    HD Radio Terminology

    The new language of HD Radio

    amplitude scale factor: A factor that multiplies the baseband components of a particular sideband of the transmitted spectrum to constrain the radiated power to a prescribed level.

    differential encoding: Encoding process in which signal states are represented as changes to succeeding values rather than absolute values.




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