Canucks Buck HD

This new post from Radio World, entitled “Canada in Digital Radio Limbo,” states in effect that digital radio is dead in the water in the northlands. It opens thus:

Going nowhere: These two words succinctly sum up the state of Canadian digital radio broadcasting, or DRB.

Despite years of offering Eureka-147 DAB simulcasts of AM and FM signals in L-band (1452–1492 MHz) in major metro markets, broadcasters have virtually no listeners and no market profile.

“L-band DAB is in limbo,” said Canadian broadcast technical consultant Wayne Stacey, who has been involved with Canadian DRB for the past 20 years. “In fact, from a transmission standpoint, the band is dying.”

Meanwhile, HD Radio — the iBiquity Digital in-channel, on-band (IBOC) system — has been authorized for experimental FM broadcasts in Canada since 2006.

Yet, despite the willingness of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to fast-track licenses in this format, “not one broadcaster has come to us to request one,” said CRTC Vice Chair Michel Arpin. “Industry Canada, who is in charge of the radio spectrum, has said that they are also willing to set HD Radio standards, but nobody has cared to file a request with them either.”

Apparently, the system Canada rolled out in the early 1990s was one of a kind — different than European DAB and HD here — and nobody would make the radios to pick up the signals on the 70-odd stations who bought into it. And now the end nears:

Today, DAB transmitters at Toronto’s CN Tower and other transmitter sites are beginning to fail due to old age, and when they do die, no one replaces them.

“I know that a few broadcasters have handed back their L-band licenses, rather than buy new equipment,” said Stacey. “CBC Radio has given back theirs in Montréal. The service was taken off for tower renovation, but it is not being restored after the work is done.”

Now, with Canadian companies once burned on digital dreams are loath to follow Bob Struble to the Neverland of HD radio:

Canadian broadcasters are not moving to add HD Radio services, preferring instead to stick with analog AM and FM.

“Broadcasters here still want to see how HD Radio fares in the States, where the rollout has slowed down and issues with AM HD Radio have yet to be fixed,” said Stacey. “. . . So our broadcasters — already burned by DAB — are understandably reluctant to commit any money to HD Radio, especially in this economy.”

Today, Canadian radio is firmly committed to AM and FM, with no action by either public or private broadcasters to make the permanent jump to digital.

A commenter to the story says stick a fork in it — it’s done:

What is this incessant need to digital the world? Does every service known to man need to be digitized? Virtually every radio listener on the planet couldn’t care any less about digital radio. There’s no disputing this. So, here we have a minority of radio insiders with big business and big government connections attempting to force feed it to the world. The simple fact is — radio has now become a niche and mass appeal is gone. Digitizing it won’t bring it back. Changing modes won’t bring it back. I suggest holding on to what remains of radio listeners should be the first priority of the industry. Finding out what will keep them and what works and what doesn’t should be question of the day. But no, not that. Instead RW and other radio entities track the digitizing of the industry like it’s the holy grail. You people are so foolish.

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One Response

  1. The Canadians have always been leery of IBOC, especially on the AM band. According to Radio World, we should have heard by now from Mexico and Brazil – my guess is that they are a bust for Struble.

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