I Got Yer Balance

The radio-info.com discussion board has a section, here, about radio in the Austin/San Antonio area, and it recently contained a thread started by the new Austin American-Statesman columnist covering radio (as mentioned in an earlier post). He heard perhaps a little more than he wanted about his initial offering:

everydayguy: Gary,

I like your writing and the thoroughness of your reporting in the Statesman column, but please do NOT drink the Bob Struble/Ibiquity Kool-Aid without checking the ingredients. What you did not report is the failure of HD to catch on with listeners and with several thousand radio station owners, managers and engineers who see it as a scam. Struble has zero credibility among many in our industry.

I know the Austin radio scene very well, and I can assure you that the people I talk with — engineers, PDs, GMs — generally think of HD as a joke that was foisted on them by their corporate overlords.  Did you ask anyone in Austin radio to venture a guess as to how many HD radios are in use in Austin? I’d guess around 500 at best. Just for fun, drop by a local Best Buy store and ask to see their HD radios. That’ll make a great column in itself.

And why, in your article, did you quote a single college student about how great HD is? When I bring up HD radio to my UT media classes, I get blank stares.

Next August, I urge you to spend two days at the Texas Association of Broadcasters convention in Austin and get the real lowdown on HD radio from broadcast engineers and the people who own and manage stations. I did. And you might be stunned to hear just how many broadcasters either hate or ignore HD and who see no audience gains or revenue from it and or who refuse to buy expensive equipment to broadcast an HD 2 channel that might reach a few dozen people at  the most. Not to mention that station owners have to pay outrageous licensing fees to Struble and Ibiquity just for the “privilege” of broadcasting in HD.

Congratulations on the new column – it’s about time the Statesman covers radio – but please show a little more journalistic skepticism next time.

Manny Michaels: Gary, I have to agree with everydayguy on this one. HD Radio is a huge boondoggle that should have gone the way of AM stereo a long time ago. In the beginning, HD was nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to the hype of satellite radio. Now it’s a virtual money pit that will never see a ROI.

Most of the programming is under-attended or canned. The PD’s I know who’ve been saddled with an extra channel or two simply schedule logs for the week or month even, and export them to an FTP site somewhere without any editing or fine tuning. It’s a joke among the guys in the trenches.

It’s well known that the only real beneficiary of HD Radio is Ibiquity. The fact that HD penetrates less than 1% of the US population after over 5 years in the field should tell any reasonable operator that it’s time to pull the plug and put that money to good use, like hiring more bodies or marketing his primary platform.

Also, if my HDTV reception was a crappy as HD Radio, I’d be pissed. HD Radio breaks up everywhere in cars and antennae have to be carefully adjusted in home or office settings to get one, much less all available signals.

As for your column, you only told half of the story. And you got suckered by Bob Struble. Nice job.

Gary respectfully — and manfully — disagrees, quite politely, stating: “As with any piece we write, you have to get both sides. That’s where iBiquity and the Texas State student come in. Both are fans, for very different reasons.” For which he is once again skewered:

dx7: No, Gary.

Two people who “are fans” of HD radio for different reasons is NOT “getting both sides of the story.” Talking with someone who explains why no amount of niche programming on HD2 can justify the biggest con job in the history of radio, IS getting both sides of the story.

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One Response

  1. What really concerns me are Struble’s claims about hitting “critical-mass” in both the after-market and with automakers. Fact is that many of the NAB/NRSC Board Members are investors in iBiquity, and one can bet that equity options were offered to the automaker, retailer, and cell phone CEOs, etc. I’ve gotten hits from Amazon.com and investment firms searching on “iBiquity IPO,” and many visits from Sprint/Nextel and Verizon. It’s all about Struble lying to prop-up iBiquity for a potential IPO. Why in hell would BMW be forcing a defective product onto consumers?

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