Barry McLarnon, writing in the current issue of Radio World, took some shots at HD radio in an article entitled “Oh Well, on With the Experiment.” Among his insights:
The saga continues. It’s remarkable that the development of the IBOC system began well over 20 years ago, yet it still seems to be an ongoing experiment. On the AM side, the experiment seems to be pretty much concluded: The ship has sprung a leak and is listing badly…. The system was torpedoed by poor nighttime performance, interference problems, and the lack of any real selling point, like new audio services.
Of particular note, Barry writes of the influence of the major players pushing for the HD power increase and the subsequent subservience of the FCC:
The FCC order regarding the power increase represents a bit of a departure for the commission. Up to this point, they at least paid lip service to protecting the public interest by requesting comments at key junctures in IBOC deployment.
This time, however, they based their decision almost entirely on the contents of a report submitted after the close of the comment and reply comment periods. What also raises eyebrows is the fact that the order discusses a couple of ex parte filings submitted after comments were no longer invited.
So, in essence, a few privileged parties had their say at that point, and everyone else was left out in the cold.
And as Barry notes, the role of NPR in gaining acceptance for the power increase has been less than exemplary. “In their 2008 report, they warned of dire consequences that would ensure from a blanket FM IBOC power increase.” But a quick rewrite was done on the report, and suddenly: “Oops, our mistake, a blanket increase of 6 dB is actually just fine, and even a 10 dB increase will be okay in most cases.” The numbers in the two reports are the same, but they’ve been jiggered in 2009 to justify the power increase.
There’s much more of import here, but his conclusion merits particular mention:
[I] fear that many will miss this important conclusion from these test, buried in the bowels of the report (page 46):
“Station managers and engineers need to be conscious and informed of the effects of elevated IBOC, if they are considering adopting high-power digital transmission for their own stations. Although the listening experience of such a rise in power will vary greatly for listeners across the protected service area, all in-home analog listeners will experience some reduction in audio quality and most will experience a significant reduction in audio quality.”
Sounds like a pretty serious flaw to me.