Digital Radio Update - February 21, 2007


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News

NRSC Surround Document Released
The National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC) has released its informational report on available options for HD Radio delivery of surround sound. Developed by the committee's Surround Sound Audio Task Group (SSATG), the 72-page document is intended as a primer for broadcasters considering surround sound options delivered via FM IBOC digital transmission. The report stops short of endorsing any particular standard.

Some of the systems covered include SRS Circle, Dolby Prologic 2, Neural, FHG MPEG, DTS Matrix and CT surround. The document is available as a PDF download at nrscstandards.org/DRB/SSATG report final.pdf


Rehr to Martin: Recall Illegal Modulators
On Feb. 12, NAB President David Rehr sent FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a letter in which he cites a recent article in the New York Times about FM broadcast signal interference caused by consumer devices. In the letter, Rehr renewed NAB's request that the commission recall all satellite radio receiver hardware with the potential to unlawfully interfere with over-the-air broadcast frequencies.

Rehr noted that over-the-air radio listeners are routinely subjected to explicit and undesired programming from satellite radio companies, most notoriously The Howard Stern Show. Foremost among those listed as negatively impacted are "FM listeners in their cars and listeners of public and religious programming on noncommercial stations typically located at the lower end of the FM band," said Rehr's letter.

Last year, the NAB sent a similar letter to the leadership of XM and Sirius Satellite Radio urging each company to "voluntarily withdraw and replace all noncompliant satellite radio devices in circulation."

A 2006 study of 17 wireless devices commonly used to transmit audio signals from satellite radio devices and MP3 players to in-dash car receivers showed that 13 of the 17 devices exceeded interference limits set by the FCC. Furthermore, six of the noncompliant devices reportedly exceeded signal output limits by 2,000 percent with one unit surpassing permissible levels by 20,000 percent.


Ibiquity Unveils New Licensing Incentive Program
Columbia, MD - Feb 21, 2007 - Ibiquity Digital has announced a new incentive program for broadcast groups installing HD Radio technology that extends current discounts on license fees for groups meeting certain conversion commitments. The program also allows participating groups to lock in discounts on future station acquisitions, making it particularly advantageous to smaller groups and independent station owners.

Per the terms of the program, any radio broadcast group not currently licensed under a previous Ibiquity Digital station conversion incentive program will have its primary audio license fees capped at $10K per station (HD Radio license fees are scheduled to increase to $15K per station in July 2007 and then to $25K in July 2008).

"The top 20 radio broadcast groups own just 20% of the AM and FM stations in the U.S., which means the overwhelming majority of the nation's radio stations are owned by small groups and independents," said Ron Davis, chairman of the Small Market Operators Caucus. "This new program is an especially good fit for small, independent broadcasters, as it will help us accelerate our transitions to digital."

Qualifying groups will commit to license and convert stations under the following terms:

  • All group stations currently licensed with Ibiquity Digital must be converted under the existing license terms;
  • At least one group station not already converted must be converted by Dec. 31, 2007;
  • 50 percent of all group stations with revenues in excess of $300,000 must be converted by Dec. 31, 2010, based on a schedule outlined in the license commitment agreement (LCA);
  • $2,000 of the $10,000 license fee for each station committed under the incentive is due by Sept. 30, 2007. The remaining $8,000 for each station is due at the time the station is licensed.

The discount applies to all group stations, pending the execution of a 2007 LCA between the group owner and Ibiquity Digital by Sept. 30, 2007. The LCA is available online at www.Ibiquity.com/broadcasters/becoming_a_broadcaster.

Radio magazine observation: The licensing fees for HD Radio have been a point of contention for many broadcasters, particularly the smaller and independent owners. This program does not eliminate the fees, but it does reduce the cost. Because of the licensing fees, some have viewed HD Radio as an interest only for the large owners. Ibiquity has an obvious financial interest in the development of its technology and wants to recoup those costs, but it also wants to encourage more stations to adopt the technology. Incentive programs such as this will help that effort.


Business

Sirius and XM Plan to Merge
Washington and New York - Feb 19, 2007 - The rumors are coming true; XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio have entered into an agreement to combine the companies in an all-stock merger of equals. The combined value of the merged company will approximately $13 billion, which includes net debt of approximately $1.6 billion.

XM shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 4.6 shares of Sirius common stock for each share of XM they own. XM and Sirius shareholders will each own approximately 50 percent of the combined company.

Mel Karmazin, currently chief executive officer of Sirius, will become chief executive officer of the combined company. Gary Parsons, currently chairman of XM, will become chairman of the combined company. The new company's board of directors will consist of 12 directors, including Karmazin and Parsons, four independent members designated by each company, as well as one representative from each of General Motors and American Honda. Hugh Panero, the chief executive officer of XM, will continue in his current role until the anticipated close of the merger.

The jointly issued press release touts that the merged company will be able to provide additional choices in program offerings, develop and introduce a wider range of lower-cost listening devices, and in general create a more competitive audio entertainment outlet. In addition, the companies state that the merger will "enhance the long-term financial success of satellite radio by allowing the combined company to better manage its costs through sales and marketing and subscriber acquisition efficiencies, satellite fleet synergies, combined R&D and other benefits from economies of scale."

Terrestrial broadcasters will find comfort in this statement from the press release: "In addition to existing competition from free, over-the-air AM and FM radio as well as Ipods and mobile phone streaming, satellite radio will face new challenges from the rapid growth of HD Radio, Internet radio and next generation wireless technologies." While terrestrial radio stations are concerned about satellite radio stealing their audiences, satellite radio has the same concern.

Karmazin has been open about the possible merger and calls the merger "the next logical step in the evolution of audio entertainment."

The transaction is subject to approval by both companies' shareholders, the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and regulatory review and approvals, including antitrust agencies and the FCC. If approved, the companies expect the transaction to be completed by the end of 2007.


Sharper Image Signs On With HD Radio
The Sharper Image, a national retailer featuring a tech-chic family of products, has added HD Radio to its online store and 188 nationwide retail outlets, going so far as to feature an HD Radio receiver on the cover of the company's latest catalog. The retailer's move will be included in the HD Digital Radio Alliance's 2007 promotional campaign, which was announced in December.

Sharper Image will offer two popular tabletop digital radio models from Boston Acoustics and Sangean. But it's Boston Acoustics' Recepter that will get face time honors on the company's catalog, widely regarded as a "must-have" source of cutting-edge lifestyle products by more than a million consumers who receive it annually.

The Sharper Image joins other HD Radio retailers in the lineup for the alliance's 2007 advertising campaign with a reported airtime value of $250 million. A series of 15- and 30-second spots will promote products, in-store availability and online availability in all of The Sharper Image's retail markets.


Registration Open for BE Seminar at NAB
Broadcast Electronics (BE) will share technology updates and practical tips during its HD Radio engineering seminar to be held on Saturday April 14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Room N-211, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The engineer-oriented seminar is designed for first time and veteran HD Radio broadcasters alike. The seminar is free to all broadcasters, but seats are limited and on a first come, first served basis. Registrations can be made online at www.bdcast.com.


Worldspace to Drop European/North African Service
According to its website, international satellite radio service provider Worldspace plans to discontinue existing programming services on its Afristar North-West Beam serving Europe and Northern Africa after Nov. 30, 2007. The move is predicated on "modifying and upgrading its current satellite technology as well as content programming in preparation for mobile services." The company is no longer selling subscriptions to customers in the affected regions. No timetable for resumption of the service with upgraded technology has yet been announced.

Worldspace had previously reported that its third quarter 2006 subscriber count increased 136 percent from the same quarter in 2005, but that it had lost $28.9 million during the period and was "evaluating strategic partnership alternatives."


Cingular/AT&T Taps Mediaflo
Wireless carrier giant Cingular/AT&T will follow in the footsteps of its chief competitor, Verizon, by signing a deal to add Qualcomm's Mediaflo streamed video to its menu of subscriber services. According to an article by Joe Palenchar in Twice online, Cingular will offer at least two of the TV channels provided via Mediaflo exclusively to its subscribers.

The announcement is a big step forward for Qualcomm, which plans to launch its mobile TV service in the second half of 2007 using refarmed spectrum previously occupied by UHF TV channel 55 in dozens of markets nationwide. The new service employs a proprietary digital modulation scheme to deliver multiple channels of streamed video to mobile handsets and vehicular receivers. To date, Mediaflo has announced content partnerships with CBS, Comedy Central, Fox, MTV, NBC, Nickelodeon and ESPN. Cell phone giants Samsung and LG have announced that they'll produce Mediaflo-compatible handsets.


Products

Crutchfield Offers Retrofit Car Tuner
Car audio specialty marketer Crutchfield has added an HD Radio add-on tuner to its retail catalog. The HD Car Connect Radio from Directed Electronics will allow consumers to add HD Radio to existing car stereos with a relatively simple installation. The DMHD-1000 features a large, backlit multi-line flat display/control head displaying station, channel and program data, and that mounts easily on the dash. The unit's body is mounted under the dash and provides audio line outputs and a wired FM modulator to allow interconnection with any OEM or existing audio system.

Crutchfield is promoting a variety of HD Radio products on its website with online information and support, such as installation guides and an HD Radio glossary. The DMHD-1000 carries an advertised price tag of $199.95.


IBOC Across America

IBOC By State: Louisiana

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

MarketStationHD1 FormatHD1 On air?HD2 FormatHD2 On air?Owner
Baton RougeKQXL-FM 106.5Urban ACNUrban - Classic SoulNCitadel
Baton RougeKRDJ-FM 93.7VarietyNAC - VarietyNCitadel
Baton RougeKRVE-FM 96.1ACNOldies - 80'sNClear Channel Radio
Baton RougeWCDV-FM 103.3ACNAC - OldiesNCitadel
Baton RougeWEMX-FM 94.1UrbanNUrban - Ballads and Love SongsNCitadel
Baton RougeWFMF-FM 102.5CHR/PopNCHR - NewNClear Channel Radio
Baton RougeWYNK-FM 101.5CountryNCountry - New CountryNClear Channel Radio
Baton RougeWRKF-FM 89.3News/InfoY--Public Radio
LafayetteKRVS-FM 88.7VarietyY--University of Louisiana at Lafayette
New OrleansKKND-FM 106.7Alternative RockNSpanish - ACNCitadel
New OrleansKMEZ-FM 102.9Urban OldiesNSpanish - Mexican RegionalNCitadel
New OrleansKYRK-FM 104.1GospelNReligious - Christian ContemporaryNClear Channel Radio
New OrleansWNOE-FM 101.1CountryNCountry - All NewNClear Channel Radio
New OrleansWQUE-FM 93.3Urban ACNUrban - All NewNClear Channel Radio
New OrleansWRNO-FM 99.5Classic RockNNews - ReNewsNClear Channel Radio
New OrleansWYLD-FM 98.5UrbanNJazz - Smooth JazzNClear Channel Radio
New OrleansWBYU-AM 1450ChildrenY--ABC Radio
New OrleansWWNO-FM 89.9Classical/NPRY--Louisiana State University
New OrleansWWOZ-FM 90.7Variety/NPRY--Louisiana State University

There are five stations in Louisiana broadcasting five HD Radio channels. The formats for the multicast channels are furnished by the HD Digital Radio Alliance.


HD Radio Terminology

An introduction to the new language surrounding HD Radio.

Importer: A device that accepts multiple program feeds (SPS) and the program-associated data (PAD) for those audio streams to be transmitted with the main program service (MPS). The importer feeds the exporter. Part of the generation 3 HD Radio system.

HD generator: part of the generation 2 HD Radio system. The function of the HD generator has been split into the exporter and the exgine in the generation 3 system.




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