A Noble Savage

Bob Savage, in an article on rbr.com, brings out the savage on HD AM radio:

If the radio industry were still possessed of its once-legendary common sense and cajones, our Veep Of Death’s 9:05 am Monday task would be to march upstairs to HD-AM’s office and plant a 9mm round right in the center of the forehead without so much as an “excuse me” or a “good morning.”  That’s it: pop that cranial cap. Bang. Dead.  No soothing psychobabble. Just the Dirt Nap In The EternaLounger for the indisputably worst iteration of a enormously bad idea, a/k/a the AM version of HD.

We could have HD-AM in the ground before lunch, giving everyone the afternoon off to celebrate, and Tuesday we could all be back at work concentrating on things that matter: like, for starters, quality programming which differentiates terrestrial radio from satellite, internet and new music choices.  (These would be actually productive pursuits, to be distinguished from obsessing on hopelessly flawed and self-destructive modulation schemes from an existing transmitter site.)

So why is HD-AM the most hated technical “innovation” in the history of a proud and close-knit industry?  Well . . . let’s see. It causes noise pollution on originating stations.  It’s fragile and craps out with the flip of every nearby light switch or lightning flicker. It’s expensive. The digital coverage sucks. It’s a maintenance hog. HD-AM capable radios are about as commonly available as Kruggerrands in a coin laundry. The Chatty-Cathy Chorusing Codec makes every talk host sound like a vaguely gay Darth Vader. It utterly fails to address AM’s real problems, namely: no night service for daytimers, extreme day-night pattern and power disparities, directional-pattern challenges, noise susceptibility and coverage deficits compared with FM. And that’s for starters.

Can you say what you really feel, Bob?

Notwithstanding stubborn pronouncements from IBOC’s pushers and the FCC about an alleged dearth of adjacent-channel interference complaints, it’s well-known that there have been many: WYSL vs. WBZ, WHP vs. WFIL (yes, a second-adjacent case), WNTP vs. WMVP, and KFMB vs. KBRT are just a few examples.

The irony of the current situation is that HD was promoted as a potential savior of AM. In practice HD-AM has been an unmitigated disaster, an unfunny joke and scourge for the radio industry. To no good purpose whatsoever, HD has divided AM broadcasters into bitterly-opposed camps of interferors and victim stations deprived of any meaningful recourse by connivance of HD developers with the FCC. HD-AM has totally failed to deliver on its engineering claims to resuscitate the band; if anything, it has made the interference and noise plaguing AM far worse with thundering nighttime adjacent-channel skywave hiss wiping out meaningful local coverage, in some cases obliterating even 50kw native signals.

If Sir Winston Churchill had lived to witness HD Radio on AM, he might have declared: “Never have so few done so much harm to so many — and to themselves — with so little justification.”

Let a Radio Star Chamber of Common Sense issue its sentence and send the Veep of Death for HD-AM to do what we all know needs to be done — before “hybrid digital” further corkscrews AM into deepening oblivion. The execution needs to happen right away. We’ll never win back listeners with all this noise and crud convincing the public daily that AM radio is just an antiquated audio junkyard.

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2 Responses

  1. What radio needs is to be left alone. Analog FM/AM works just fine, and most technologies would kill for such receiver penetration. Globally, the general public is not buying into the digital mantra, as digital radio has stalled, or is failing. Digital over-the-airwaves simply does not work well. FMeXtra would suffer the same fate as HD Radio with anemic receiver sales.

  2. We need to convert to “true” digital radio (like FMExtra, which is airing in selected markets throughout the country), move the “heritage” AM stations onto the digital FM band. The AM band can continue to be used for radio stations catering to ethnic listeners who are underserved by the big radio companies.

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