The Arguments Against HD Radio

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While HD Radio has its supporters, there are just as many dissenters among broadcasters. One Radio magazine reader is fed up with the naysayers and offered his opinion. He asked to remain anonymous.

The complaints I hear about HD Radio sound hollow. It's common to hear these complaints:

  • Consumers don't know what HD Radio is.
  • Why would a consumer want a radio that can't be accessed by steering wheel controls?
  • There's no content worth listening to.
  • The HD Radio signals don't penetrate building.
  • HD Radio means a higher electric bill for the station.
  • Jobs could be saved by turning of HD Radio.
  • Multicast streams make the primary channel suffer in quality.
  • Of all the valid criticisms of HD Radio there are, these aren't them.

    Consider this: In 1970, if you asked radio broadcasters their thoughts on FM, they would have offered similar arguments:

  • Adding another FM transmitter doubles the transmitter power bill.
  • Many FM stations were record changers in the back of the AM studio.
  • No one was putting FMs in had to install a converter.
  • The profit model that sustained it was the use of the SCA for Muzak.
  • People, for the most part did not even know FM existed.
  • Adding stereo to FM cut the coverage area in half and increased the noise floor. "There goes the quality."
  • No one made money selling spots for an FM station.
  • The coverage of FM vs. a clear-channel AM was much less.
  • While it's tempting, it's ill-advised for an engineer to render opinions outside his expertise or responsibility. So let's cut out the arguments that the engineer has no real business making and boil it down to engineering.

    "HD Radio doubles the transmitter power bill."
    True. New services cost money. We're only now learning efficient ways to run this technology. It's young technology.

    "Jobs would be saved by turning HD Radio off and saving on the power bill."
    That has no basis in fact. It's a decision that is not the engineer's to make. Besides, the power bill of an HD Radio-enabled station would save (depending on the market) one of the lowest-paid employees at the station. Not considering benefits coverage -- just salary -- considering these times of lower broadcast cash flow there's no assurance that would be done. And don't necessarily think it would just pad the wallets of a fat-cat CEO...I'd love to see the fat-cat CEOs this year. I only see those sweating to make their leveraged debt payments on stations making single-digit margins.

    -- continued on next page

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