To the Mattresses

There’s a new development in the HD radio saga that may eclipse in import all that have gone before. It seems a law firm is looking into the possibility of a class-action suit against iBiquity, according to this post on Radio Ink Magazine:

A New Jersey personal injury law firm may be hovering around a class action lawsuit related to HD Radio, as it says it is “investigating” the technology and wants to hear from people who have had problems with factory-installed HD in cars. Keefe Bartels says there have been “numerous complaints about HD Radio from not only the radio industry but also consumers.”

Among the complaints cited on the law firm’s website are receivers switching from HD to analog and an associated “echo sound,” “crackling or static sound when HD Radio is inactive,” “insufficient numbers of HD Radio stations,” “loss of signal while driving in valleys or between high buildings,” signal disruption in different environmental conditions, and interference with adjacent channels.

The law firm notes that HD doesn’t stand for “high definition ” and says developer iBiquity “likely uses the ‘HD’ as a marketing device based upon consumers’ understanding and ever-increasing desire for HD television” [ya think?].

It also names the automakers that are factory installing HD Radio.

The law firm says on its website, “The attorneys at Keefe Bartels are continuing their investigation into HD Radio and whether consumers are being forced to purchase technology that does not work as claimed. If you have experienced problems with your factory-installed HD radio receiver, we are interested in speaking to you.”

The Keefe Bartels website adds this:

Automakers are aware of the complaints associated with HD Radio.  For example, in 2007, BMW released a Service Information Bulletin describing the problems associated with HD Radio, but noted that there was no retrofit kit or procedure available.

Radio World contributed this to the story:

“HD car radios are plagued by an inability to receive the digital signals transmitted by FM and AM radio stations and a significantly reduced sound quality when such signals are received,” the trial lawyers state on the site. The attorneys do not specify whether consumers have complained to them about the radios or identify specific complaints.

“If you or someone you know recently experienced problems with a HD car radio in a newly purchased or leased BMW or Jaguar automobile, please contact the attorneys at Keefe Bartels, LLC to see if they can help you.”

“As news develops and the investigation proceeds, Keefe Bartels, LLC will carefully monitor events and research all relevant laws,” promise the attorneys.

IBiquity Digital declined comment.

The flagging fortunes of Bob Struble and his traveling circus, however, stand in stark contrast to moves in the industry — controlled by what Jerry Del Colliano calls the “consolidators” (Emmis, Clear Channel, et al.) — as they continue to carry the FCC and other government “consumer” agencies around in their hip pocket, along with their Big Biz cronies. As Jack Hannold notes, the recent Society of Broadcast Engineers election had a certain taint to it:

Of the six people just elected to two-year terms on the SBE’s board of directors, two work for transmitter makers (Nautel and Harris) and three work for Alliance member radio consolidators (CBS, Clear Chanel. and Cumulus). Talk about stacking the deck!

It’s surprising only that public radio isn’t represented on the board, as 40 percent of the HD stations in operation are courtesy of public radio — through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and your tax dollars.

One additional note of interest came out of Tampa, where radio station WUSF has been absorbed into the borg. Secreted within this otherwise-fluffy piece is this about HD and the CPB:

[P]olk County will not get the signal immediately, so the station is looking at translators that could send the signal there. That may not be ideal, but classical-loving audiences in Gainsville and Fort Myers were stuck with only an HD signal, which after several years and lots of local promotion simply has not caught on with radio listeners in the U.S.

A report commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting called Public Radio in the New Network Age says that “for the near term, HD2 and HD3 channels are not a viable choice for the presentation of multiple, differentiated services aimed to reaching measurable audiences.”

Perhaps that means the CPB will stop bankrolling the IBOC scheme, though NPR seems to be doing a booming business in selling its product to these empty channels. Also of note within the article is the following, which seems to bolster the argument that the designation “HD” is a marketing ploy, and a somewhat successful one at that, in this case:

Both WGCU in Fort Myers in 2008 and WUFT in Gainsville in 2009 made the programming switch that WUSF is about to undergo, eschewing news/classical for news/information. But they opted to relegate their classical programming to their HD stations, which far fewer people have access to. (HD stands for “high definition” radio systems, which allow stations to broadcast digital audio, multiple program streams and traditional FM all on the same frequency. Listeners must purchase a separate radio to get HD programming, or access it via the Internet.)


3 Responses

  1. “A Station Owner’s View of HD Radio Industry”

    “We were told back in the beginning that the HD coverage would be equal to the analog signal. Unfortunately, the industry is now finding out this is not the case… We’ve also found that even in a strong HD signal area, a dipole antenna is required… We were also told that the HD would lessen interference with adjacent channel signals. That also appears not to be the case. This is really very discouraging and is leading us to wonder why we should bother to promote HD. To do so will only disappoint, and, perhaps, antagonize a significant segment of the audience who finds that the system doesn’t deliver.”

    Perhaps, this law firm should start by contacting Dr. Robert Conrad.

  2. The inevitable has started. This may be the start of the downfall of iBiquity. No other automakers will go near HD Radio, at this point, and maybe the automakers that do offer HD Radio will start pulling it from their offerings. Dealerships must be enjoying all of the returns for these “defective” radios. Installing new HD radios won’t work, so what are they to do?

    What I found especially interesting is that this law firm also mentioned complaints from broadcasters, so if the broadcasters that got duped by iBiquity, or have lost revenue from ad dollars from IBLOCK interference, could also jump on board this class-action suit. I see this potentially blowing up into a major action against iBiquity, the FCC, NAB, NPR, Harris, Nautel, and individual HD broadcasters.

    @Paul: Very good point – iBiquity has “broken” the AM sections in all of my radios and ruined my AM-DX hobby. Perhaps, this should be suggested to the law firm to solicit complaints from analog listeners, too!

  3. Oh, that’s rich. Perhaps they should make it a class action law suit and invite all the listeners that have been subjected to HD radio’s interference to participate. That would be justice…

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