Digital Radio Update - November 5, 2008


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Index

  • Karmazin: Marriage of Sirius XM Technology Can Wait
  • CPB Opens New Round of Grants
  • NPR Election Coverage Showcases New ICART HD Radio Application
  • Worldspace Deorbiting to Chapter 11
  • IBOC by State: Connecticut
  • ARRL Successfully Blocks DART DRM Tests on 40-Meter Ham Band
  • Comments Due on IBOC Digital Increase
  • BBC's Davie is New VP Pick at DRDB
  • Audi Adding HD Down the Road

  • News

    Karmazin: Marriage of Sirius XM Technology Can Wait
    Detroit - If you were wondering just where a post-merger Sirius XM satellite radio is headed, think content and features, rather than platform harmonization. At least that's the message company CEO Mel Karmazin seemed to send in his keynote address to a group of auto executives at the Convergence 2008 conference recently in Detroit.

    In an article in Automotive News, reporter Patricia Scott says Karmazin told his audience that unification of Sirius XM's delivery/receiver technology is probably 10 to 15 years out, given chip development time, and slow automaker adoption curves. That's a considerable elongation of a timeline floated just months ago when the CEO was wooing regulators to sign off on a Sirius buyout of its former rival.

    Touting new brand-exclusive features such as localized traffic, weather and navigation packages services, Karmazin seemed to be telling the auto industry that his company was there to help them sell cars through unique brand distinction, a theme undoubtedly designed to resonate with an industry that is now probably best described as economically challenged.


    CPB Opens New Round of Grants
    Washington - CPB says it is now accepting grant applications for Priority I digital radio transmitter conversions as well as for secondary Priority II and III projects. Priority II and III projects are those that add advanced HD Radio functionality, such as multicasting and advanced digital services, along with demonstration projects that support the digital conversion of translators and boosters. Priority I projects cover transmitter conversion from analog to IBOC digtal hybrid service.

    The current round of applications will be applied to the FY08-02 funding cycle.

    Details on eligibility and application requirements are available at www.cpb.org.


    Technology and Applications

    NPR Election Coverage Showcases New ICART HD Radio Application
    Tuesday, Nov. 4 was a historic night not only for American politics, but also for millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons who will soon be able to experience live, captioned radio broadcast coverage of elections on specially equipped HD Radio receivers.

    Closed-captioned feeds of NPR's extensive election coverage were shown via specialized HD Radio receivers at private demonstrations scheduled at NPR headquarters in Washington, DC, as well as at NPR affiliates WTMD Baltimore, WGBH Boston and KCFR Denver. Captioning for the historic broadcast was provided by WGBH's Media Access Group, while WAMU in DC originated content. All captioning was carried using HD Radio datacast capability, while a Web simulcast of content streamed via www.npr.org.

    The election broadcast is the latest event coordinated by the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), headquartered at Towson University in Towson, MD. Founding members also include NPR and Harris.

    According to Galludet University, nearly seven million people in the United States are either deaf or hard-of-hearing, while more than 28 million Americans report difficulties with their hearing.


    Business

    Worldspace Deorbiting to Chapter 11
    After a protracted and ultimately unsuccessful struggle to snag a financial lifeline, international satellite radio provider Worldspace, along with its U.S. subsidiaries Worldspace Systems Corporation and Afrispace have filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

    The move marks the beginning of what will likely be a sale of company assets to cover senior secured convertible notes. While recapitalization remains an option, experts view that possibility as extremely remote, given the current world credit climate.

    Under the Court's jurisdiction, Worldspace will continue to operate and manage its assets as a "debtor-in-possession." Meanwhile, the holders of the company's existing debt have conditionally agreed to provide a temporary financing facility of up to $13 million for a period of 90 days in order to facilitate a sale. Such a financing facility is typically extended in order to allow a distressed company to continue to pay those salaries and operations costs considered critical to preserving the value of the company's core assets. The company's Board of Directors says it has appointed Robert Schmitz of Quest Turnaround Advisors as chief restructuring officer during this period.

    Industry observers say finding a buyer for Worldspace as a going concern may be difficult. The company's only business peer, Sirius XM satellite radio, is facing debt issues of its own, as its per share stock price recently dwindled to about 25 percent of its value just 12 months ago. When quizzed by reporters about a possible acquisition of Worldspace at an auto trade show in Detroit, Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin said his company has no plans to expand to Europe or Asia. Both continents are focal points in Worldspace's ongoing business plan.


    IBOC Across America

    IBOC by State: Connecticut
    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 24 stations in the Constitution State broadcasting 39 HD Radio channels.

     

    MarketStationHD1 FormatHD2 FormatHD3 FormatOwner
    BridgeportWEZN-FM 99.9AC--Cox Radio
    BridgeportWSHU-FM 91.1Classical/NewsNPR News/Talk-Sacred Heart University
    BristolESPN-FM 98.1Sports NetworkExperimentalExperimentalSports Radio
    DanburyWDBY-FM 105.5Hot AC--Cumulus Media
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWZMX-FM 93.7Hip HopHispanic Raggeton-CBS Radio
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWRCH-FM 100.5Soft ACSmooth Jazz-CBS Radio
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWDRC-FM 102.9Classic HitsOldies-Buckley Broadcasting
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWCCC-FM 106.9RockBeethoven Radio-Marlin Broadcasting
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWDZK-AM 1550Family Hits--Radio Disney
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWKSS-FM 95.7Top 40Pride Radio-Clear Channel
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWHUS- FM 91.7Variety--University of Connecticut
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWTIC-AM 1080News/Talk--CBS Radio
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWTIC-FM 96.5Modern ACWTIC-AM News Talk Sports-CBS Radio
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWHCN-FM 105.9Classic Hits/Rock ACDeep Tracks & Live Rock-Clear Channel
    Hartford-New Britain-MiddletownWWYZ-FM 92.5CountryClassic Country-Clear Channel
    New HavenWAVZ-AM 1300Sports--Clear Channel
    New HavenWKCI-FM 101.3CHR/Top40Dance - Club Fusion-Clear Channel
    New HavenWELI-AM 960News/Talk--Clear Channel
    New HavenWPLR-FM 99.1AOR--Cox Radio
    New HavenWURH- FM 104.1AlternativeClassic Hip-Hop-Clear Channel
    New LondonWQGN-FM 105.5CHR--Citadel
    Stamford-NorwalkWCTZ-FM 96.7AC--Cox Radio
    Stamford-NorwalkWFOX-FM 95.9Classic Rock--Cox Radio
    Stamford-NorwalkWEBE-FM 107.9ACESPN NewsESPN News/SpanishCumulus Media

    FCC Update

    ARRL Successfully Blocks DART DRM Tests on 40-Meter Ham Band
    An experimental license granted by the FCC to Digital Aurora Radio Technologies (DART) for high power operational testing of DRM radio transmission that would have included a potion of the Amateur Radio 40 meter band has been amended to exclude those frequencies, says the ARRL.

    The organization, which represents thousands of licensed Amateur Radio operators, filed a petition last month in response to the FCC's granting of experimental radio station license and construction permit for WE2XRH on Oct. 7. As issued, that authorization would have permitted high power transmissions using DRM digital modulation in the frequency ranges of 4.50-5.10MHz, 7.10-7.60MHz and 9.25-9.95MHz.

    The FCC responded to the ARRL petition by amending the authorization to preclude 7.1-7.3MHz, a heavily used portion of amateur spectrum.

    DART, based in Delta Junction, AK, intends to begin testing DRM transmission using surplus transmitters originally built by Continental Electronics for government service as backscatter radar transmitters. Modified with DRM modulators, the 100kW test transmitters will operate into specially designed high-angle antennas to proof the company's concept for providing statewide radio services across America's largest and most isolated state -- Alaska -- via HF ionospheric scatter propagation.

    Should DART's technology demonstration prove successful, the company will likely ask the FCC to issue HF band domestic broadcast licenses, a first in U.S. broadcast history.


    Comments Due on IBOC Digital Increase
    The FCC wants to know what you think about a controversial NAB-backed proposal to permit a 10dB increase in FM IBOC digital carrier power.

    Comments on the initiative are due at the Commission's offices no later than Nov. 28, with reply comments accepted no later than Jan. 3.

    All filings should reference MM docket number MM 99-325.


    Eye on IBOC

    BBC's Davie is New VP Pick at DRDB
    In a measure seemingly designed to address anxiety about the future of DAB in the UK, the BBC's Director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie, has been tapped to replace Jenny Abramsky as Vice Chair of the industry-sponsored Digital Radio Development Bureau (DRDB).

    According to an article by John Plunkett in last week's Guardian, the move comes at a time when radio executives across the UK are calling for a relaunch of DAB in a way that will reach British consumers during the peak of their holiday buying season. Currently, about 19 percent of all radio listening in England is taking place via the country's first DAB multiplex, dominated by the government-sponsored BBC.

    Worries about the future of DAB in the UK have been running high since a planned launch of a new commercial DAB multiplex was indefinitely postponed just two weeks ago. That project ran aground after principal investor Channel 4 pulled its funding due to a budget crunch brought on by contraction in the nation's advertising industry.

    In addition to announcing the group's Vice-Chair selection, DRDB CEO Tony Moretta is also said to be looking to fill newly created positions for a Director of Marketing, Marketing Manager and PR Executive.

    The DRDB was organized by industry players with the mission of promoting commercial radio's transition to DAB among UK consumers.


    Products

    Audi Adding HD Down the Road
    Another European automaker has signaled its commitment to provide U.S. customers with HD Radio technology as a standard feature. Beginning with its 2011 model year, Audi of America said last week that it plans to offer HD Radio as OEM standard equipment in select product lines.

    A self-described leader in luxury features, Audi notes that it already offers Sirius satellite radio as standard equipment, something the company plans to continue as it makes HD Radio technology available in Audi cars and SUVs as well.

    The decision to offer HD Radio as a standard item will match Audi with Volvo, which is providing HD Radio receivers on its 2009 C30, C70, S80, V70, XC70 and XC90 models.

    Other European automakers currently offering HD Radio as an option in their product lines include Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar.




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