Chips Ahoy

The bean counters in radio have turned our stations into a wasteland, the PDs given over to wild speculation and fits of consolidation. Inside Music Media’s Jerry Del Colliano, a former prof at Southern Cal and a longtime critic of what passes for intelligence in the radio hierarchies, likes to call them “consolidators” — those more interested in the buying and selling of stations and trying to squeeze a profit out of them than in actually producing a good product. And that often takes the form of automation and a mass of layoffs.

Take out the “buying and selling of stations” and put in “adding HD channels” and you can throw in public radio stations, who make up 40 percent of the digital morass, thanks to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and your tax dollars (though in the past couple of years, they too have succumbed to the lure of the takeover, given the public’s underwhelming response to the digital farce). Either way, the weight of the added expenditures yield the same effect: canned crap and layoffs, a more mediocre product.

Which gives weight to what some claim is the death of radio, reported on in a new post on Radio Insights, “Could NAB Botch the FM Chip Any Worse?” The NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, is off fighting a war against phantom boogie men, desperately seeking a deal that would put FM radios in cell phones — a dead-letter item if there ever was one. Their problem lies elsewhere, as noted in this comment therein:

If radio is becoming irrelevant, it is not because of the technology. It’s because of the lousy programming on most American stations. FM serves up the same 20 songs, geared toward soccer moms, mall rats, and 20-something secretaries . . . over and over again. AM gives you a steady diet of quack infomercials, sports talk, paid religion, and right-wing political propaganda. I don’t want to use my cell phone for listening to radio stations. I use it for phone calls, period. The NAB and others seem to forget that the new media all come with ever-increasing monthly fees. But radio is FREE! People, make your stations LOCAL, throw your satellite dishes into the Dumpster, and give us some more variety of programming . . . for us older folks, too, who happen to account for 38% of consumer spending these days.

Jerry Del Colliano of Inside Music Media says it ain’t gonna happen:

Radio’s FM chip problem is that it is all a fantasy.

Sounds great to think of billions of cell phones as radios, but it will never happen. The major consumer products and mobile industry is against it and they have real lobby groups not what the NAB has turned into — impotent. $100 million in annual increased taxes for stations sounds like nothing the way the NAB is throwing your money around. Except for one thing.

Consumers have and will continue to reject a mobile phone as a radio and $100 million a year is just the starting point. It, like other taxes, will go up and never down. In other words, you are about to be had once again by your National Association of Broadcasters, the people who were instrumental in tacking on radio deregulation to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 with little warning to most radio operators.

Maybe it’s time to put a person who has actually worked in a radio station as head of the NAB. The last guy was from the beer industry and Gordon Smith is a former senator. Both pretty unimpressive at exactly the wrong time.

Even at a paltry 20 cents a chip in the typical phone, it ain’t gonna happen. And then there are the real dreamers — Bob Struble could actually be classified a nightmare — who envision an HD chip in there, at $5 a pop. The IBOC hyper flack machine distributed hints in the media recently that this possibly was in the offing with iPhones. And the media got all a-twitter.

Right. Steve Jobs is just begging to pay iBiquity fees and kowtow to its substandard gimcrackery — right after he changes sex and checks into a convent.


3 Responses

  1. A couple of developments about (public) radio audience include today’s Media Shift item on KQED local news expansion [note audience growth] and WAMU’s (DC) use of HD and the fact that its HD-2 is getting enough audience to start showing in the ratings book and its HD-3 is being reprogrammed to be much more interesting and on its ways to an appreciable audience.
    Just saying, don’t discount HD’s potential too early in the game.
    Since arriving at WAMU 88.5 in March 2005, the station has seen tremendous development as a model for the public radio industry’s future. In Fall 2009, WAMU 88.5 ranked number two in the country among PPM-measured public radio stations in weekly share and third in AQH Persons (the average number of people listening in any given 15-minute period). Under her leadership, private sector revenue from individual and corporate sponsorship supporting the general operating budget increased by more than $7 million or 81 percent, between FY 05 and FY 09. Mathes oversaw the launch of two additional services utilizing HD Radio technology, including the expansion of Bluegrass County, the station’s online bluegrass service, and the creation of WAMU-3, a news/talk station with an international focus.

  2. Also, the inclusion of HD Radio would be far from $5 per device:

    “iBiquity Digital unveiled the results of a recent comScore study that validates consumer demand and willingness to pay a premium for HD Radio Technology as a handset feature. 68% of consumers surveyed are interested or extremely interested in mobile phones that include HD Radio Technology. 75% of those who own a mobile phone would listen to HD Radio broadcasts via their mobile phone. $42 is the value premium consumers attribute to HD Radio Technology in mobile phones.”

    comScore has no such study on their site, but the point is that Struble quoted $42 per mobile device. This same nonsense happened when Struble tried to get HD Radio mandated in Satrad, quoting $12 per radio, but the FCC called them on it, quoting around $50. Automakers charge $300 – $500 for the HD Radio option, so I’m guessing that including HD Radio involves not only royalties, but other expensive technical complications as well. I’d like to see Congress try to force cell phone manufacturers to pay royalties to iNiquity.

  3. The possibility of Apple including HD Radio directly in their products was all hype. The idea centered around a story from Apple Insider about an update to an old patent application concerning HD Radio and analog radio tagging from REMOTE devices. Apple Insider spun the story (no doubt for Struble’s benefit) that Apple was thinking about including HD Radio directly, which was completely false.

    As for FM chips being mandated in mobile devices, I believe that the NAB is throwing analog under the bus for the possibility of getting HD Radio eventually mandated into mobile devices. One has to remember that many of the NAB/NRSC Board Members are investors in iBiquity. The NAB is willing for stations to pay double in royalties for the inclusion of analog FM chips in cell phones. Of course, the NAB would eventually try for a mandate of HD Radio, but that would limit sales of these devices to only the US, since HD Radio exists virtually only in the US — sales of the failed Zune HD were limited to US because of HD Radio. The NAB has been willling to sacrifice the integrity of analog, due to IBOC interference — they clearly do not care about analog, or community radio stations.

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