The Devil’s Details

Radio-TimeTraveller is another blog devoted to the engineering aspects of radio (link on right). This post is an extensive analysis of digital radio around the world, well worth the read for those wishing to learn more about it. It leads off as follows:

Almost a year has passed since I reported on The IBOC MESS In North America. Since then, hybrid-digital IBOC conversions (HD Radio) on the US mediumwave AM broadcast band have come to a near dead stop. There seems to be little excitement for new stations to jump on the Ibiquity AM bandwagon, what with a scattered amount of dedicated equipment available and marginal listener interest, not withstanding the large cash outlay stations need to get signed up and converted.

The earlier post mentioned, from the year before, had some harsh words as well for IBOC:

“Bacon frying in a pan,” that’s what the co-channel interference sounds like when you are 10-20 KHz from one of Ibiquity Digital Corporation’s AM HD Radio-equipped stations. At nighttime in the northeast part of the US, a veritable RF storm of digital hash appears across the entire AM broadcast band precluding reception of many distant stations. What a mess.

IN-BAND, ON-CHANNEL?

Huh? I’m not sure why they call it “In-Band, On-Channel” — it most certainly is NOT “On-Channel.” The 15 KHz digital sidebands either side of the main carrier bleed fully beyond the adjacent AM channel center and into that adjacent station’s far sideband. No filter, on any receiver, regardless of bandwidth, can reject it. In order to provide room for these expanded sidebands superimposing digital information on top of analog audio, stations also have had to narrow their audio response to an absolute 5 KHz maximum, further reducing standard analog audio quality. Adherence to strict technical standards is now an absolute imperative, both in the transmitter, modulation technique, and antenna or you have an even worse interference problem. And we all know radio stations often fail in this area of strict adherence. This, currently, is what the FCC calls “Hybrid” digital operation, the precursor to going fully digital at some future date.

In addition, this post details some of the terms of a radio station’s agreement with iBiquity to use the technology:

Here’s the meat of it, and what the radio station must agree to if they wish to broadcast IBOC HD Radio:

1. The agreement is perpetual. You are handcuffed to Ibiquity, your provider and benefactor, forever.

2. Pay a one time fee of $25,000 to Ibiquity for rights to broadcast the Main Audio Channel. A station now pays a private, for-profit company for the right to broadcast its main signal.

3. Revenue sharing (part of your profit goes to Ibiquity). Pay 3% of incremental net revenue derived from any supplemental audio services made possible with HD Radio technology (a minimum of $1,000 per year per audio channel).

4. More revenue sharing (more of your profit goes to Ibiquity). Pay 3% of incremental net revenue derived from transmission of Auxilliary Data (Secondary and Tertiary digital data not associated with the Main Channel Primary Data).

5. Pay me again. Software upgrades to the existing HD Radio system must be licensed by paying an extra annual fee or the prevailing rate at the time of increase.

ENTER THE GOVERNMENT

And sad to say, the US Government (in name of the FCC) acts as a money-funneling agent for Ibiquity in their authorization of Ibiquity as the sole supplier of HD Radio technology. Call it monopoly if you wish. Yeah, yeah, I know — so Ibiquity has the patents on this technology. So what. Money, money, money, and more money. What ever happened to the PUBLIC INTEREST?

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5 Responses

  1. […] The company circulated “Memorandums of Understanding” discussing the fee plan with its investor broadcasters and other station owners, which one company lawyer termed “weasel wording that will be meaningless in negotiating.” A further sticking point was the iBiquity charge of 3 percent annually of station revenues generated from the IBOC data services (covered earlier here). […]

  2. […] Why, iBiquity, of course. And for years to come, as itemized in its licensing agreements, detailed here. NPR would like to think it can salvage its sagging fortunes with a new network of subservient […]

  3. A very interesting post to us (non) US citizens who have an interest in Digital Radio.

    We could never understand why the US Govt. made the decision to authorise IBOC when Eureka 147 was so obviously a more efficient (open) standard.

    Since its general release in 1996 the world’s broadcasters have been adopting the DAB family in increasing numbers — it would be great to be able to welcome Broadcasters from the USA into the fold……

  4. Good link. It says, in part:

    Noncommercial stations are exempt from the FCC’s regulatory fees, so they would pay the lowest IBOC licensing fees. But some of them protest the levies as well.

    In comments submitted to the FCC about the National Radio Systems Committee report on Ibiquity’s FM IBOC system, the Rocky Mountain Corporation for Public Broadcasting wrote that its stations are “outraged at this unprecedented use fee plan.”

    One unnamed manager wrote to the FCC, “I think it is unconscionable that they are asking the FCC to adopt their sole technology as the only system and then charge every station an annual use fee on top of the fees you will already pay to Harris etc. that will be built into their digital equipment if and when you decide to buy their transmitter.”

    One noncommercial manager said, “This is going to kill noncommercial stations.” He added that public radio stations, which typically vie with public TV for grant funds for equipment purchases, face added pressure from TV’s mandated digital conversion.

  5. Here’s a historical background on the fees, which I believe is a ploy to drive the smaller broadcasters out of business, if IBOC is ever mandated:

    http://www.www.rwonline.com/article/2204

    Of course, IBOC hash will probably destroy the smaller broadcasters, anyway. I know that if a station changes ownership, then IBOC can be dropped. A number of stations have dropped IBOC, but I wonder if they still have to pay annual fees. Struble is the Devil, himself.

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