Lies in Disguise

Jack Hannold sent along a post from the radio-info.com discussion board dealing with the introduction of FM radio and comparing it to the furtive foisting off of HD radio on the public — further debunking the claims from IBOC flunkies that its slow adoption mirrors that of FM radio. As noted, the powers-that-were did not embrace FM radio when introduced, whereas now, the big guns are actively involved in promoting HD — and hoping to profit from it (see “How NPR Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” here, on NPR’s complicity in the campaign with some of the major players).

Of course, as maintained by Greg Smith and gmail-group radio engineers, iBiquity’s plan all along was to get the idea accepted, then cash in with an IPO — a public offering designed to line their pockets and free them from the nagging problems of a substandard system. As Greg noted, this entry from the LinkedIn résumé of a former iBiquity accountant speaks volumes of that design:

In anticipation of the Company’s planned IPO, participated in re-tooling of the accounting department, fostering a collaborative environment that improved productivity, individual accountability and team morale.

Among the viewpoints on the discussion board:

Radioskeptic: [W}hat will it take for digital radio to succeed in the US? Don’t expect it to work out at all on AM.  The laws of physics preclude that. But the prospects on the FM band aren’t much better. While not nearly as bad as medium wave, VHF is still not very suitable for digital signals….

You also have to remember who developed “HD” IBOC.  CBS was a key player in the USA Digital Radio consortium.  And it was CBS Labs that came up with the pathetic FMX system (which had nothing to do with FMeXtra)…. If digital aural broadcasting ever succeeds, it will be through broadband internet. But wireless internet will not – can not – provide the bandwidth needed for audio that equals analog FM under good conditions. So I think that analog aural broadcasting will remain dominant for the foreseeable future.

Finally, I have no patience with those who try to draw a false parallel between the struggles of FM in its early days, when the dominant forces in broadcasting were trying to suppress it, with the problems of the Iniquity IBOC system today, when the majors, at least initially, were solidly behind it.  Their arguments are self-serving and mendacious.  Few stations have increased FM IBOC power, because there’s obviously no ROI.  It’s just a matter of time until both “HD” and the company behind it disappear. And good riddance!

Stacker: FM took off because owners started programming and putting talent on the FM stations. No more IGM automation systems cranking out the hits or beautiful music. The adoption of FM was content driven.

HD radio, on the other hand, is not content driven. It’s just like the AM stations of years ago who simulcast their audio on their FM’s. HD-2, HD-3, well . . . no one’s home. It’s automation-land. Nothing different from the ’70s, except the computer plays the music rather than a rack of Scullys.

Will the consumer rush to buy HD radios to receive what they hear on their existing receivers? If the HD promoters expect the HD-2, 3 channels to drive receiver sales, that’s kind of like expecting someone to rush out and buy an SCA receiver. Last I checked, SCA receivers were available in build-it-yourself kit form. Wait, maybe that’s the answer for HD radio. Build your own HD radio. Kit sales would take off for those do-i- yourself builders who could afford the iBiquity license fee.

Tested: My two cents:

1. It’s got to be a reliable technology that’s better than analog FM. Ibiquity is not. Maybe something else will come along that will be reliable. The receivers have to be inexpensive too. It’s hard to sell people on the idea of getting digital radio if the radios are 50-100 dollars each.

2. Offer programming you can’t get elsewhere. The technical quality upgrade between FM and digital can be quite good, but it’s not enough to get people to switch. Offering more programming and programming you can’t hear on analog FM is a good way to sell people on the new technology. Ibiquity is trying to do this, but the technology is just not reliable enough for this to work.

3. Sad to say, but you’ve got to convince a lot of people to actually listen to radio. Iphones, Ipods, CDs, MP3s . . . you name it . . . are all becoming a primary source of music and news for many people. It’s fine to recite all the studies that show radio has a lot more listeners, but that won’t be the case down the road. You’ve got to offer something people cannot get over the net and sell that idea to them every single day. If you don’t overcome this problem, you can create the world’s best radio technology ever and have few people listen to it.

KB10KL: FM worked, not as well as today but it worked. I could pull in WBCN Boston on a console stereo in 1969 and it did not drop out and was very listenable. IBOC would not go anyplace even if it had great content like the cultural shift had that was played out on FM radio in the early ‘ 70s because the technology is terrible and no one would hear it except for a few radio geeks and professional like who populate this place.

Zach: It doesn’t matter what the programming is if you can’t pick it up while you’re driving around. That seems to be a sticking point with HD subchannels at the moment. Even in relatively strong signal areas, there are dropouts that, depending on the model radio, may just garble the audio or may drop out for several seconds….

A good example, from the Mobile-Pensacola market.  Most of their FMs are located halfway between the two cities, meaning the class C’s all have a 30 mile ride to the suburbs of each town.  The HD signals simply do not work well that far out, and this is in a part of the country that’s nearly flat as a flitter.  If the HD “equivalent” of 98 kW @ 1700 ft can’t reach the population centers, then how is the equivalent on a class A going to serve even a small town?…

And the iBuiquity people have got to get it through their thick skulls that people simple do NOT buy radios, they buy crap that has a radio in it already.  If they wanna move HD radios, they have to get the technology in everything, too, not sell dedicated unitaskers. It’s not just radios, either. Fewer are buying digital music players. They buy phones that play music files, or A/V portables that do video and audio and surf the net through a Wi-Fi connection. They want a device that does it all. Designers get this and are clamoring to put mp3 or iPod capability in all kinds of devices. Even my father’s $30 clock radio has a memory card slot. And for the record, he didn’t a radio with a clock, he bought a clock with a radio.

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One Response

  1. I’ve had these keyword searches hit my blog the past year – Comcast Business Communications is Clear Channel. The Amazon search verifies that they were probably given a piece of iBiquity equity, along with everyone else:

    comcast business communications inc. “ibiquity ipo”
    cox communications “ibiquity ipo”
    amazon.com inc. “ibiquity ipo”
    american capital strategies ltd “is ibiquity going public ipo”
    atc labs “ibiquity ipo”
    cbs corporation “ibiquity ipo”
    cellco partnership dba verizon wireless “ibiquity ipo”

    The past week I got these two hits:

    factset research systems inc “ibiquity digital””equity”
    global crossing “ibiquity digital””equity”

    Factset is some sort of financial institution in India, and Global Crossing came out of Brooklyn, NY, so I assume it is some sort of investment company. Same searches on the same day – interesting.

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