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Digital Radio Update – September 27, 2006
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New RDS Standard Under Industry Review
Radio Text Plus (RT+) is a new standard for RDS text message distribution that was approved by the RDS Forum in June 2006. The RT+ standard has been developed jointly by the mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, the broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) and the research institute Institut für Rundfunktechnik (IRT). Now, the standard is getting a comprehensive compatibility review from U.S. broadcasters including CBS Radio, Clear Channel and Entercom along with equipment and receiver vendors such as Broadcast Electronics and Kenwood America.
A group meeting of key RDS leaders from Europe, Japan and the United States was held in Bellevue, WA, the week of Sept. 11 to conduct compatibility testing of Radio Text Plus, a standard protocol for tagging specific radio text elements under a variety of categories. RT+ builds on the internationally established Radio Text standard by adding category codes to existing text streams, creating opportunities for differentiating displays of song title, artist name, traffic updates and weather read-outs.
The tests and engineering review included broadcasts of artist, title, album name, station name as well as weather, traffic and stock market information. Each data element is independently identified within the RT+ system. Seattle stations owned by Entercom and CBS Radio hosted the broadcasts. Clear Channel also supplied an RT+ enabled signal through a local station.
While some may question why broadcasters and their vendor partners would be so interested in expanding RDS capabilities while trying to roll out HD Radio, which has far greater potential for the development of the consumer datacasting market, Mike Bergman, vice president, New Digital Technologies with Kenwood USA sees it as something of a no-brainer for everyone involved.
“This technology has the potential to catch on very quickly, because it makes it so easy to put title and artist information on the air and on (conventional FM) receiver display(s),” said Bergman, whose company co-sponsored the so-called “Plugfest” with transmission system vendor BE.
Broadcasters, receiver manufacturers and cell phone makers are reportedly interested in the test results to advance new products based on the standard.
Colorado Symphony Airs in HD 5.1 Surround
KVOD in Denver broadcasted the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's 2006-2007 Masterworks season opening program on Sept. 16 in 5.1 surround sound using Neural's 5.1 technology for analog and HD Radio. The concert was aired live from Boettcher Concert Hall at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
The concert, conducted by the orchestra's Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, provided KVOD's analog and digital listeners with a rare opportunity to hear the orchestra from a “virtual seat” in the hall. The performance included Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Andre Watts, Chabrier's Espana and Ravel's Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe, plus the world premiere of Daniel Kellogg's Refracted Skies commemorating the opening of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum.
KVOD's live broadcast coincided with The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) conference, a trade association specializing in planning and installing electronic systems, including 5.1 surround systems for the home and office.
Neural worked with KUVO Denver on a live HD Radio 5.1 concert broadcast featuring the symphony and jazz artist Dianne Reeves in September 2004.
Consumers Still Don’t Understand HD Radio
Widespread misconceptions about the nature of HD Radio prevail among radio-oriented consumers, according to a new research study released by Mark Kassof & Co. Study findings suggest that about 5 percent of 18 to 64 year old respondents think they are receiving HD Radio from at least one of the FM stations they listen to, but have not actually purchased an HD Radio-capable radio, while only 1 percent say they have purchased a HD Radio-capable radio.
Among those listeners who say they are receiving HD Radio but haven't purchased a HD radio, 46 percent say it is "about the same" as regular FM radio, while 12 percent of them characterize HD Radio as "a lot better" than regular FM.
Mark Kassof, president of the research firm that conducted the study, said the research suggests that "stations contribute to confusion when they say they are 'broadcasting in HD' without offering an explanation of what HD provides and what is required to receive it. As a result, some listeners wrongly think they are receiving HD."
The findings are based on 752 telephone interviews completed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 17 in the United States.
ABI: Nokia Acquisition of Loudeye Underscores Trend
Nokia’s recent $60 million acquisition of Seattle-based music delivery platform vendor Loudeye is just one more sign of how serious the cell phone manufacturing giant is about positioning itself to become a dominant force in the mobile music, according to a recent industry analysis by ABI research. In ABI’s view, the Loudeye deal is just one in a series of recent moves in fulfilling Nokia’s objective of becoming a “global leader in the mobile music experiences.”
Jake Saunders, ABI Research's Asia-Pacific research director, said in a recent news release that "Nokia needs to move onto the hallowed turf dominated by Apple's Ipod" if it wants to become a major player in mobile music. ABI also claims that the financial climate is ripe for Nokia to make strategic acquisitions, like that of Loudeye, because the mobile handset business is booming. In fact, ABI expects that Nokia will ship more than one billion products by the end of 2006. Building on that overall volume, more than 125 million units with multi-purpose and dedicated music player capability are projected to ship by 2009.
Becoming king of the mobile music hill won’t be easy for Nokia, however. ABI predicts stiff resistance from Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft is now launching Ztune device and music delivery service.
Clear Channel Going Mobile With Cingular
Clear Channel Radio has announced the roll out of a nationwide initiative to distribute the company’s radio programming content to mobile phone users who subscribe to the company’s new Z100 Mobile service. According to a press release, WHTZ-FM New York will stream live programming and new features directly to cell phone-equipped subscribers across the country on the Cingular Wireless network. Clear Channel intends to launch similar programs involving as many as 100 of its stations across the country during the next 12 months.
Subscribers to Z100 Mobile can to listen to streamed and on-demand content from the New York rock FM, including podcasts of celebrity interviews and highlights from show segments. They can also access title and artist data from the last 10 songs played on-air, enter song requests directly to the studio and receive a text message alert 15 minutes before the song is played. Subscribers can also get free station wallpapers for their phone, view and rate listener-submitted photos and obtain real-time reports on local traffic.
The service is currently being offered to Cingular subscribers for an additional $2.99 a month.
Eye on IBOC
HD Radio in Paradise
Radio listeners in the Hawaiian Islands will soon get a taste of HD Radio along with their usual dose of pineapple juice, according to a recent article in the Honolulu Advertise. FM stations KSSK, KUCD, KDNN and KIKI are poised to commence digital hybrid operation by next spring, making them the first Hawaiian radio outlets to offer digital radio.
Clear Channel Communications will have HD Radio operational on KUCD in Honolulu in March, followed by the company's remaining stations over a period of several months. Cox Communications, which owns stations KCCN, KINE, KPHW and KRTR in Hawaii, projects that conversion of its properties will be completed later next year.
The absence of competition from satellite radio, not currently available to islanders, might be seen by some observers as lessening the urgency for an HD Radio roll out in Hawaii, as opposed to that on the mainland. Yet local station managers say the additional investment in the technology and the additional programming is justified by competition from online sources and personal music players.
Ibiquity Bolsters HD Radio With Low Cost Receiver Offer
In an attempt to build the promotional momentum of HD Radio, Ibiquity Digital will make three types of HD Radio receivers available to broadcasters at a base cost of $99 per unit. The announcement, which came at last week’s NAB Radio Show in Dallas, means that broadcasters who agree to give away the radios as part of HD Radio’s on-air promotional effort, will be able to choose between three different HD Radio products designed for mobile, tabletop and component applications, all at a $99 price point, with additional charges for shipping and handling. The three products include:
All of the featured units are multicast capable and will be available for shipment directly from their manufacturers at the end of November.
Though some broadcasters may not recognize the Directed Electronics brand, the company already produces a variety of consumer electronics, including several car alarm products and Sirius Satellite component receivers. Directed also recently announced its acquisition of Polk Audio.
Broadcasters interested in the Ibiquty receiver promotion can find out more at www.ibiquity.com.
IBOC Across America
Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology. IBOC by state will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.
|Market||Station||Main Format||HD2 Format||Owner|
|Medford Lakes||WVBV-FM 90.5||Christian||Hope Christian Church of Marlton, Inc.|
|Middlesex-Somerset-Union||WAWZ-FM 99.1||ChrsContemp||Teaching and Preaching||Pillar of Fire|
|Monmouth-Ocean||WBJB-FM 90.5||AAA/NPR||Brookdale Community College|
|Monmouth-Ocean||WRAT-FM 95.9||AOR/ClRck||Greater Media|
|Morristown||WDHA-FM 105.5||AOR||Greater Media|
|Trenton||WWFM-FM 89.1||Classical||Mercer County Community College|
Cambridge Offers Latest HD Tuner Entry
Cambridge Soundworks introduced a new component HD Radio tuner retailing for under $300 at last week’s CEDIA expo in Denver. The Soundworks Tuner 850HD is designed as a value priced entry into the expanding custom and installed audio market. The new tuner also complements the company’s recently released 820HD stereo table radio family.
The tuner comes configured for rack mounting and features three signal outputs (two digital and one analog) to accommodate varied user configurations. An infrared remote control is included for line-of-sight control along with a vocabulary of commands to support remote user interface panels common in custom installation.
The 850HD is scheduled to ship in November of this year.
BE Debuts First Low-Level Tube HD FM Transmitter
Broadcast Electronics' (BE) FMI T Series, the first of its new line of tube transmitters for HD Radio, is now on the air at Clear Channel’s WGAR-FM in Cleveland. This is the first production transmitter from that company to use a vacuum tube final amplifier capable of amplifying a low-level combined hybrid FM HD Radio signal. The transmitter began operation in August. WGAR is a 50kW Class B facility with a single ERI multi-bay antenna system.
Consisting of three models (FMI 17T, FMI 21T and FMI 25T) with 25kW FM+HD Radio operation, the FMI T Series transmitters can achieve an overall efficiency in excess of 55 percent. The company notes that it has already received an additional order for three FMI 25Ts from Cache Valley Radio in Logan, UT.
BE's existing analog line of FM 25T, FM 30T and FM 35T transmitters are upgradeable to the new FMI configuration.
HD Radio Terminology
service control units (SCU): Units of system control data transferred between Layer 2 and Layer 1.
service data units (SDU): Units of user content transferred from Layer 2 to Layer 1.
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