Said & Done

Another reason the consolidators like “HD”

Jack Hannold sent this along: Here’s another thing about “HD” on FM that really appeals to the consolidators:

There’s a cap on the number of stations a company can own in a single media market. The cap varies with the size of the market. But the FCC is letting the big boys get away with circumventing the cap by (a) establishing a new format on an HD-2, and then (b) using an analog translator (in some cases, more than one) to rebroadcast that HD-2 program stream to those listeners who don’t own “HD” radios — meaning virtually everybody.

(Note: A translator is a “low-powered” station that doesn’t produce any programming of its own; it only rebroadcasts the entire content of its “primary” station — including legal ID’s with the different frequency, and usually the different city-of-license, of its primary station. And I use the term “low-powered” loosely, since many translators are more powerful than LPFM stations that do originate their own programming. LPFMs are limited to 100 watts, with lesser antenna heights.)

This item came from Tom Taylor’s Taylor on Radio-Info newsletter for Aug. 16:

Kansas City – Cumulus-owned Classic rock “Fox” KCFX is back on top, it seems, going 6.8-7.3-7.5, after losing the May book to Entercom rocker KQRC (7.1-7.0 and this time a 5.9. KQRC’s in a three-way knot for second place with urban KPRS and oldies KCMO-FM. The other appearance of KCFX in the standings is KCFX-HD2 – and mostly the FM translator at 103.7 that’s fed by the HD-2 signal. In April “The Dam” pulled a 0.6 share, and that’s steadily risen to a 1.8, with a cume of nearly 90,000. Not bad for a 250-watt translator.

That HD-2 is getting its audience “mostly” from the translator?  No.  “Almost entirely” would be more like it!

This post on the Radio InSights site, entitled “Lost in Translation: PPM Missing Listening,” indicates that even with the PPM, Arbitron misses 41% of the time:

The first clue can be found in British tests of PPM. The radio ratings cooperative in the UK (RAJAR) put PPM through a series of tests, including its ability to identify the radio station that was playing.

As reported by the RAB PPM Task Force: “In November of 2004 the PPM participated in a test where 33 radio stations were played in various environments and levels of ‘noise.’ The PPM correctly identified 59% of the total radio sessions, in an environment where the goal was 50-70%.”

Dr. Joe Pilotta, a professor at Ohio State University had some unkind words to say about PPM and the apparent inability of PPM to identify radio stations 41% of the time.

The article notes that after their review of PPM, UK Broadcasters decided to stick with the diaries — which yield an entirely different set of numbers.

Piled Higher and Deeper

The hype mill is cranking on HD radio, saying that IBOC will conquer the world by 2015 with 200 million units. Either someone is relying on the old adage — that a lie can travel halfway around the world before truth gets up in the morning — or else somebody’s dosage needs adjusting. This post on shows that the response to the allowed power boost for IBOC (which, “they” say, would realize “CD quality” for HD and also keep it from cutting out all the time) has been underwhelming:

The FCC approved the higher levels in January and began allowing stations to file for them on May 10. Now three months later, the NAB’s Tech Check newsletter does a census of stations that have notified the Commission that they’re taking advantage of the new freedom. It finds 51 commercial and 35 non-commercial stations are doing so. Only six of the 86 have hiked digital power to the maximum allowed. About one-third are running below the so-called “blanket” power level that is a compromise between the highest level now allowed (-10 dBc) and no change at all. For many stations, raising HD Radio power would require new equipment purchases in a difficult economy. Originally, the Commission allowed the HD Radio signal to run at just 1% of the analog power, and that’s where the vast majority are today. iBiquity says that about 2,078 stations have converted to its digital audio broadcasting system, counting both AMs and FMs. The FCC is only allowing FM stations to raise power.

Running Interference

Meanwhile, Radio Guide published a story called “The Dark Side of IBOC FM,” attached, detailing the interference caused adjacent channels by HD broadcasts. Some maintain that this was a blatant power grab by the major “consolidators” to drive out the little guys (LPFM and community stations) by turning their signals into hash.

Page from Radio Guide


One Response

  1. Notice that Struble is once again stepping up the hype in the Press?

    The NAB is trying to get analog FM mandated into cell phones by Congress, as part of the RIAA settlement, and I see this as a potential avenue to get HD Radio into cell phones, as iBiquity is working on their own EAS system. We will need to follow this one closely, as the HD Radio Chipset Salesman must be drooling at that thought.

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