Greg Smith sent along this post by Kevin Strom at Liberty Net from December of last year. The lead of the article, “HD Radio: Doomed from the Start,” says it all:

WITH 2010 APPROACHING, CNET just released its “The Decade’s 30 Biggest Tech Flops” anti-awards, and “HD Radio” was among the “winners.” HD Radio was not only doomed from the start, it was such a serious blunder that it may well lead to the death of thousands of radio stations and the permanent stunting of the industry itself.

Strong words, but included in the text is commentary on what could have been with digital radio, absent the push by industry behemoths to corner the market:

1. In every community, all signals would have been full-quieting with no noise or multipath distortion. There would have been no more disparity in signal or noise levels between 50-kW powerhouses and 250-Watt locals or 10-Watt student stations — all would have had perfect, full-quieting signals within the community’s coverage area.

2. There would have been no more need for any licensees to sign off or go to absurdly low power at night as obtains presently among AM stations. And former AM stations would no longer suffer from crippling skywave interference at night.

3. Depending on how much spectrum was allocated and the ratio of talk to music programming (with their different bit rates), at least four to eight times as many stations could have been allocated to each community as now exist, leaving open the possibility of free and independent public access and non-profit “free radio” style programming, greatly expanding listening choices (and points of view in news programming) for everyone.

4. As stations migrated to the new band, even more channels would become open on the existing AM and FM bands, making them more listenable and viable again and allowing even more space for non-profits and those who want to broadcast for the love of it instead of just for monetary gain.

But what did we get, and why?

[W]e didn’t get real digital radio. Instead we got IBOC (In-Band On-Channel, now deceptively labeled “HD Radio”), a technical turkey which delivers almost none of the benefits above and increases interference to boot.

Why did this happen?

Because the money-men didn’t want the benefits of item (1) above. They already owned the 50-kW powerhouses. They didn’t want the 10-Watt student station to suddenly have an equal signal to theirs. They didn’t want the mono AM daytimer to suddenly have 20-kHz digital stereo with no audible noise and be on 24 hours a day as in item (2).

And the money-men didn’t want dozens of new independent channels to be available to listeners as in item (3) above.

So they chose IBOC, where the digital signal piggybacks on top of the existing analogue signal, right on the same frequency. IBOC gives distinctly inferior results. IBOC causes significant interference. IBOC on AM is unlistenable and very nearly useless.

But IBOC gave the money-men the one thing they wanted most of all: It preserves the inferiority of the smaller broadcasters. In fact, amid a sea of IBOC hash from the big boys, it accentuates their inferiority.

The end result of this shortsightedness will be bankruptcy for many stations, fewer and poorer choices for the listeners as conglomerates gobble up the remains, and a huge migration away from AM and FM broadcasts and to audio delivery via satellite and the Internet.

And this from “RadeoEngineer” on a discussion board, discussing why the superior DAB model used in Europe wasn’t adopted here:

And this is precisely why it [DAB] didn’t happen in the U.S. When you add that many channels with a system that works, you instantly devalue the existing (AM and FM) properties. No commercial owner in their right mind wants more working broadcast channels cutting into the pie when they’ve paid Tiger Woods divorce bucks for a single channel (yeah, exaggeration).  Let’s say you have a market with only 15 local signals and every existing licensee gets a channel. Do you think for a moment the rest of the available channels will go unused? No way! So take a market like L.A. An occupied channel on every frequency with lots of intrusion from nearby markets. Let’s say it takes three 147 channels [the Canadian version] to give every licensee a home. Now you have a potential 90 channels all trying to sell Viagra and virtual colonoscopies. This is why we have HD, and the suits know it and saw it coming. The slide rule guys told them way long ago HD wouldn’t work, but the diversionary tactic of putting it on sure did. “Yeah, I’m a suit and I’ll sign onto this thing and spend a couple hundred large to prevent the real damage from all these new signals coming in.”

And as Bob Savage returned:

Interesting perspective on the IBOC mess, Radeo. So to keep the DAB wolf away from the door, The Suits deliberately chose a crackpot defective system as a “digital place holder” strictly as a defensive move? Gives a whole new meaning to the term “running interference.”


2 Responses

  1. […] a chilling reminder of why HD radio came to be. It’s a continuation of the discussion posted here, word from somebody who was there at the beginning. HD radio was the scam of choice because it […]

  2. “AM-HD Undergoes Radical Redesign”

    “It, in effect, signals iBiquity and its proponents’ firm intention to gradually phase out the notion of long-range listening on the AM band as we’ve known it, and localize the coverage area of all AM radio stations. Apologies to those of you who live in rural areas with no stations of your own, who rely on distant stations as a primary means of radio listenership: you’re out of luck. This is no conspiracy – you simply don’t exist anymore.”

    This article applies to both AM-HD and FM-HD. HD Radio/IBOC violates our Constitutional Rights by forcing listeners to listen to only local HD Radio stations. The similarities between Hitler’s Volksempfänger Radio and HD Radio are uncanny.

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