Desperate Times . . .

So why did NPR become involved in an unholy alliance with such media lowlifes as iBiquity and, by extension, behemoths like Clear Channel, another partner in the HD radio scheme? Well, truth be told, times have been rather tough for public radio of late, just as it has for all of media — magazines, newspapers, commercial radio, you name it. If you look at the numbers in this chart compiled by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you can see how the outlook wasn’t good for NPR’s flagship shows, “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” (click on images to enlarge):

These are the two signature shows that have long been the rainmakers for NPR. The stark reality of that is driven home in the chart from the 2009 “Public Radio Today” analysis, which shows when exactly people listen to NPR:

People tend to listen to radio in their cars, during rush hour, plain and simple. Listeners drop off drastically after people get home and turn on the tube. This is why the big push is on to get carmakers to put HD radios into new models. The consortium has gotta have the sales to make HD radio viable with consumers (which it’s not), and NPR needs to reverse the ratings trend.

Of course, the question remains why did public radio choose in the first place to get in bed with iBiquity and Clear Channel and its substandard IBOC ruse to “broaden the airwaves.” This was the only “out” that NPR strategists saw to the sagging fortunes of the network — the only straw to grasp? The subterfuge involved with getting all this through the FCC was detailed in the Radio World article noted in the post “HD = SD: Another Sh*tty Deal,” here. NPR has not exactly covered itself in glory . . .

But it’s one thing when a commercial entity acts like a Mississippi riverboat gambler with its own money and gambles on some hairbrained scheme; it’s quite another when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting takes tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize this crapshoot without so much as a “by your leave.” And the cost to local radio has been enormous, as the station bean counters have toed the NPR line and installed these HD channels, filling them with canned content from — who else — NPR and PRI and the BBC, etc., elbowing aside, in the process, local talent that had buoyed station budgets in some cases for decades. And this was at the behest of the “players” upstream, not from any poll taken by the stations of its listeners. In England, as noted in the this post on Radio Survivor, the public has a say in it:

In the United States radio stations can change their formats at will with no comment from our Federal Communications Commission. Some listeners might get angry, but most managements just white knuckle the complaints and move on. In the UK though it’s a whole different story. Stations have to publish their format shifting proposals and the public gets to weigh in before Ofcom makes its call.

Here we’re left to spread the word as best we can, educating the public one web-surfer at a time with the information from by-God real engineers that iBiquity would just as soon you not see. It’s a public information campaign, from the grassroots on up. In the weblink on the left, “What Can I Do?” you’ll find the email addresses for the congressional representatives who oversee funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with all kinds of suggestions about what you can say in an email to your representatives therein. Take that step and become a part of the campaign. If you don’t “vote,” you have no right to complain . . .


3 Responses

  1. […] flagship programs have always been the rainmakers for public radio, as shown in an earlier post, here. Notably missing is any mention of the “new, improved” shows marketing Triple A tripe […]

  2. […] this dead horse, HD radio, in hopes of extending its hegemony (see “Desperate Times,” here). For now… The price of poker must some day go up. Our problem with this is the associated […]

  3. “FCC Commissioner Clyburn Suggests Channels 5 & 6 for Radio”

    “Commissioner Clyburn also suggested that community stations consider the charms of HD Radio. She acknowledged that, “limited receiver penetration and the cost of digital transmission equipment may make owning an HD Radio station an unappealing option for community radio groups.” However, she also proposed that “HD can provide yet another way to promote broadcast diversity and expanded programming option.” She even suggested that community stations or groups seeking stations could partner with other commercial or non-commercial stations to program their secondary HD-2 and HD-3 channels.”

    I find this to be one of the most despicable comments by an FCC Commissioner — what she is really saying is that after IBOC has destroyed your community radio stations with hash, you can turn around and lease their HD channels.

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