The Best Laid Plans

Despite his blatant flackery forever flogging his IBOC dream, Bob Struble, CEO of iBiquity, must be having nightmares. The backroom deal that his company and NPR collaborated on to drive HD radio to preeminence appears to be unraveling, as it comes under increasing scrutiny on all fronts. As correspondent Jack Hannold notes: “(1) there is real controversy about that technology among both the engineering profession and serious radio hobbyists, (2) there is a far superior (and much cheaper) system which has made no headway in the market, and (3) the company behind that cheaper, yet superior, technology is a stakeholder in iBiquity, and may have been bought off — raising the possibility of an illegal restraint of trade.”

The FCC, a compliant lapdog during the buildup to this scam, said they’d hear complaints, and here they come:

[T]he blanket HD radio power increase has drawn objections and Petitions for Reconsideration from several quarters. Among the comments filed are a Petition for Reconsideration from Syracuse engineer Alan Jurison, challenging National Public Radio Lab’s engineering study that was used to bolster the case for the power increase, citing the lack of analog control sample in the analysis of digital data and flaws in the interference protection methodology used by NPR.

Press Communications filed an Application for Review and Request for Stay, citing an “unalterably biased” outcome of the proceeding based on testing conducted by the parties who had a stake in the outcome, without a full technical review or independent verification. “NPR had already admitted to vast amounts of new interference,” wrote Press. “The NAB is somewhat tainted with a majority of its Executive Board and eight to 10 others on its Radio Board having invested money in the venture. Meanwhile, a member of its radio board with a heavy investment in HD equipment in its group largely conducted the ‘tests’ on its own stations working directly with iBiquity.

“What is particularly galling is the Commission, who has and continues to rigidly protect analog FM from analog to analog interference, has allowed NPR and its cohorts to essentially assume the role of the Commission in vetting the change, not only accepting their ‘engineering’ findings, but even largely adopting the language proposed by the group,” added Press, which also noted the disproportionate impact of interference on Class A stations in general and those in the Monmouth-Ocean market in particular. “Let’s call this Order for what it really is,” wrote Press, “an unparalleled assault on analog FM Radio listeners and to further reorder the competitive landscape to the favor of higher power large market broadcasters.”

Also filing Applications for Review were Prometheus Radio Project and Media Access Project, complaining that the Media Bureau’s decision came without consideration of “any of the substantive concerns and recommendations submitted by Prometheus and other affected parties,” which the filing called arbitrary and capricious.

As the story notes, others joined in:

[T]he licensee of WRBS/Baltimore . . . submitted a Petition for Reconsideration noting the effect of the blanket increase on grandfathered severely short-spaced stations with interference agreements, saying that its own situation with co-channel WRBT/Harrisburg would lead “to the destruction of WRBS’ ability to provide interference-free service to a substantial portion of the presently interference-free area within its 54 dBu and 60 dBu contours.” Mullaney Engineering also filed a Petition for Reconsideration, noting that the 1% power level for HD radio was never intended to replicate the primary station’s coverage area because the system was designed to “blend back to analog” when the digital signal drops out.

In addition to this, All-Pro Broadcasting, Inc., licensee of KATY-FM in Idyllwild, California (Riverside-San Bernardino), is filing a Petition with the FCC seeking relief from interference caused by the HD radio operations of KRTH in Los Angeles, reports Of particular note in this posting are the comments following. Says one Greg Jablonski:

Elliott, there are indeed many different types of interference involved. There are unintended consequences to this IBOC scheme that as yet have not surfaced. So far, most of the concern has been with interference caused to analog signals. Just wait until a few Class A’s with Class B/C’s on both second adjacent channels decide to buy into the iBiquity hype and put IBOC on the air — especially if the Class B/C’s are super-powered or are operating at -10 dBc. Of course, to this point in time very few Class A’s are running IBOC, and that may never change; but there will be legal fireworks if it ever does!


2 Responses

  1. Saddening to think that “public broadcasters” (more like “privileged,” perhaps?) could so easily jump into bed with a company that is to broadcasting what Halliburton is to the military.

  2. “New York District Court Dismisses Digital Radio Technology Suit”

    “Kahn and his company Kahn Communications, Inc. alleged that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and non-government defendants (iBiquity Digital Corp., Lucent Technologies, Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., and Clear Channel Communications, Inc.) conspired to violate the Sherman Act through the FCC’s regulation of digital radio technology, and that the non-government defendants engaged in other ‘monopolistic behavior.'”

    Kahn took iBiquity and their minions to court a few years ago, but it was struck down. With the incestuous nature of those involved in HD Radio, there are clear violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act:

    I hope that those stations suffering from IBOC interference band together for a class-action suit agsinst those involved in this worthless scam. According to Bob Savage, on Radio-Info, a Petition for Reconsideration can be taken up to District Court, if nesessary.

    Where’s the DOJ?

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