Digital Radio Update - May 7, 2008


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Brazilian Official Tells Broadcasters HD Decision Near in Homeland
Brazil's Minister of Communications, Helio Costa says his agency will likely grant official approval and standards for IBOC digital radio in that country within the year. Speaking at an April 15, 2008, NAB breakfast held for more than 300 of his countrymen attending the convention, Costa was enthusiastic about growth in the Brazilian radio industry.

Costa is well known as a leading proponent of digital radio in Brazil, which has been broadcasting with HD Radio technology since KISS FM became the first commercial station there to broadcast the U.S. digital radio standard in 2005. Equipment maker Broadcast Electronics co-sponsored the NAB event. The company has been heavily involved in Brazilian testing of HD Radio, having installed a number of HD Radio systems for broadcast groups in that country over the past three years. HD Radio is now in now on the air in three cities there.

The breakfast was held in cooperation with the AESP, an association of radio and TV broadcasters based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Is DAB Glass in UK Half Full?
While recent headlines in Great Britain have suggested that DAB may be in financial trouble, recent numbers provided by the UK's Radio Joint Audience Research body (RAJAR) indicate that digital listening there is still on the increase, with 17.8 percent of radio listeners reporting DAB listening, as opposed to 15 percent as recently as last September.

According to a recent article in Digital Spy, commercial radio industry association Radio Centre CEO Andrew Harrison believes that the numbers bode well for a timely resolution to recent turmoil over DAB's economic viability for commercial broadcasters. Harrison went on to note that the burden of having to financially support two transmission systems during the country's transition to digital was a real issue for broadcasters, but that most UK commercial broadcasters expect things to improve quickly as DAB moves into a mature phase.

Yet an April 28 Times online article indicates that getting DAB over the hump is still an issue of major concern. In fact, the Times story quotes BBC Director of Audio and Music, Jenny Abramsky, as warning that the biggest danger facing UK DAB is technological uncertainty, not the least of which involves poor reception of DAB multiplex signals in many areas of Britain. To that end, Abramsky urged the Digital Radio Working Group, an organization composed of individuals representing the interests of the BBC, commercial broadcast groups, OFCOM and other official entities, to work closely in taking decisive and timely measures to improve DAB coverage.


Business

DRM HF Domestic Service May Test in Alaska
Digital Aurora Radio Technologies of Delta Junction, AK, has applied for FCC authorization to operate high power digital signals in the 5, 7 and 9MHz HF bands with power levels that could approach 100kW, according to a Web article recently published on 26MHz.us. The article claims that the FCC has already assigned a call sign, WE2XRH, but had yet to issue an authorization at the time of the article's publication. The proposed transmission facility is sited at Delta Junction, located in east central Alaska.

The application is intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Digital Aurora is proposing to propagate signals using a DRM implementation and operating spectrum typically reserved for international broadcasters, but with the stated goal of establishing a reliable domestic digital radio service throughout the entire state of Alaska.

Also of interest are reports that Digital Aurora intends to utilize U.S. military surplus OTH backscatter radar transmitters built by Continental Electronics during the waning days of the Cold War. Older amateur radio and shortwave radio enthusiast may remember the unique pulsed signals that filled the HF band while large-scale military networks were still operating, and some HF scatter-based Doppler weather is still in use today. Although specific system parameters are not yet available, it appears that the proposed system might employ specialized, high radiation angle antennas designed to take advantage of HF scatter propagation characteristics that are most pronounced in the earth's polar regions.

Continental Electronics engineers have reportedly tested one of the transmitters in question using DRM emission with excellent RF performance results.

Digital Aurora intends to carry out testing on propagation and audio quality measurements using standard 10kHz channel widths over a two-year period, but the company may also pursue wider bandwidth testing later in the test regimen. The company also says it will work with the High Frequency Coordination Conference, an international broadcast service organization, to determine appropriate test frequencies.


Katz Media's New 360 Sales Targets Digital Radio
Advertisers seeking to reach listeners through both traditional radio and non-traditional streamed audio media may now have a one-stop solution, as Katz Media Group announces the formation of 360 Sales, a new division within its Katz Radio Group (KRG) that will focus on expanding the company's digital transition by offering national advertisers the ability to reach target audiences through several different audio channels, including traditional radio, online, HD and mobile.

The company says 360 Sales will capitalize on its successful 2007 acquisition of Net Radio Sales by consolidating all of KRG's digital assets into a single unit. Brian Benedik, formerly the president of KRG's Christal Radio, was named president of the new division, which will be based in New York


IBOC Across America

IBOC by State: Montana
Ibiquity has a list of stations with licensed HD Radio technology and notes those on the air now. IBOC by state looks at various states and lists the stations making the transition. There are 17 stations in the Treasure State broadcasting 18 HD Radio channels.

MarketStationHD1 FormatHD2 FormatOwner
BillingsKURL-AM 730Religion-Elenbaas Media
BillingsKMZK-AM 1240Christian Contemporary-Elenbaas Media
BillingsKEMC-FM 91.7Variety-Montana State University
BozemanKBMC-FM 102.1Classical/Jazz/News-Montana State University
Great FallsKGPR-FM 89.9Educational-Great Falls Public Radio Association
HavreKOJM-AM 610Adult Hits-New Media Broadcasters
HavreKPQX-FM 92.5CountryLegendary CountryNew Media Broadcasters
HelenaKMTX-AM 950Oldies-KMTX
HelenaKMTX-FM 105.3AC-KMTX
Kalispell-Flathead ValleyKBBZ-FM 98.5Classic Rock-Bee Broadcasting
Kalispell-Flathead ValleyKHNK-FM 95.9Country-Bee Broadcasting
Kalispell-Flathead ValleyKRVO-FM 103.1AAA-Rose Communications
Kalispell-Flathead ValleyKWOL-FM 105.1Oldies-Rose Communications
Kalispell-Flathead ValleyKDBR-FM 106.3Country-Bee Broadcasting
MissoulaKDTR-FM 103.3AAA-Spanish Peaks Broadcasting
MissoulaKYJK-FM 105.9Adult Hits-Spanish Peaks Broadcasting
StevensvilleKKVU-FM 104.5Soft AC-Spanish Peaks Broadcasting

EYE ON IBOC

CC's Erockster Web/Multicast Format Grabs a Headline and Maybe More
An article in the business section of the April 28 NY Post brought in just the kind of publicity Clear Channel programmers were hoping for as they stunted a new format at Indio, CA's, KAJR last week. The promotion, masquerading as an unauthorized takeover of the station, was designed to showcase the launch of Clear Channels' new Erockster format, designed for online delivery. The company also intends to offer it as a two-hour syndicated package, and 24-hour HD 2 multicast stream slated to appear on select CC HD Radio outlets nationwide.

The launch did have some unique twists. It occurred on little KAJR, a station owned not by CC, but rather La-Jolla based A&J Media, located in Indio, a modest but thriving desert valley community approximately 100 miles east of the LA market. A relatively new 1.7kW facility, the station currently runs a Jack format, making it a natural fit for the classic pirate radio takeover stunt, possibly inspired by the emergence of Cool Radio 103.5 -- a real pirate operation -- in the same area back in February.

The Post article describes Erockster as "multi-genre … inspired by the artists appearing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival" held in the same area just days before the promotion. But in reality, Erockster appears to be the fruition of a carefully planned project designed to produce something more than just another format, as it rolls out fully factory equipped with a social network style website, a celebrity curator (as opposed to individual show hosts), and a 1,000-song playlist with promised expansion to more than 5,000 tunes -- and all of this with almost no references to its true corporate parentage.

Interestingly, critical response to the new offering in various trades and blogs has been largely positive, even if industry-insider impressions of the launch promotion were less so. Should the favorable reviews hold up and owners of HD Radio receivers suddenly find that they have something to brag about, Erocker just might mark the beginning of an era remembered as the period in which radio began to realize that the days of "business as usual" are really over.


HD Radio Terminology

The New Language of Digital Radio
block encoding: The process of generating a forward error correction codeword for a block of data and appending it to that block. The encoded block consists of n symbols, containing k information symbols (k<n) and n-k redundant check symbols, such that most naturally occurring errors can be detected and/or corrected.

Reed-Solomon encoding: A type of block encoding that encodes a block of information symbol by symbol (byte by byte). It is especially robust against burst errors because it does not matter how many bits in a given symbol are erroneous. There are k symbols encoded with n-k parity symbols, resulting in an encoder output of n symbols. The degree of redundancy of the RS encoder determines how many erroneous symbols can be fixed in a block of data: up to (n-k)/2 erroneous symbols can be corrected. (Named for Irving S. Reed and Gustave Solomon.)

channel encoding: The process used to add redundancy to each of the logical channels to improve the reliability of the transmitted information; not related to audio encoding.


PRODUCTS

Iluv

Iluv HD Radio
Iluv, a division of JWIN Electronics, a licensed Apple products aftermarket supplier, has just introduced two new products to the now-bustling tabletop HD Radio receiver marketplace.

The Iluv I168 HD Radio unit combines HD radio stereo reception, analog line input, multicast capability, 30 station presets and PAD data display with dual alarm clock functionality.

The Iluv I169 offers comparable functionality to the I168, but with the addition of an Ipod docking station featuring audio connectivity.

Both products will be available online at www.i-luv.com as well as from bricks and mortar retailers such as JC Penny, Electronics Expo and J&R Music.




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