The Buzz on IBUZZ

A discussion on the Radio-Info.com board concerning HD radio included this interesting link from NorthPine.com (which deals with broadcasting in the upper Midwest), detailing an odd proposal from Wisconsin’s union-slaying governor, Scott Walker, who you would think would be unalterably opposed to “public” media of any kind:

The last tower in what was originally Wisconsin’s “state FM network” would be replaced under Gov. Scott Walker’s capital budget proposal. It includes $521,700 for tower replacement at Wisconsin Public Radio’s WHSA/89.9 (Brule), a project which already has $234,973 from the federal Public Telecommunications Facilities Program. The tower was built in the 1950’s along with a half-dozen others around the state, but all of the others have since been replaced. According to the governor’s proposal, “Recent inspection reports identified several twisted members on the tower which indicates a weakening of the infrastructure. A tower collapse would take the station off the air for months.”

The governor also proposes $1,204,200 to the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board to replace broadcast equipment, including the antenna at WHBM/90.3 (Park Falls). The governor’s proposals now go to the legislature for consideration.

The topic of most interest in radio land recently seems to be the possible effect on HD radio of a defunding of NPR and the CPB, which has been the source of funding for better than 40 percent of HD channels nationwide. Jack Hannold sent along this link to radiomagonline.com, which speaks to the telling blow IBOC would take if Congress indeed cuts off public radio:

Proposed CPB De-funding Would Hurt HD Radio

By now, nearly everyone has heard about the conservative congressional initiative to de-fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). In fact, as this article is being submitted for publication, a house rules committee is conducting a hearing over a proposed bill to achieve that objective, even as a similar bill is in preparation for introduction in the Senate.

Of course there’s nothing new about this controversy. That federal funding of the CPB has been a political football since the organization’s establishment in 1969 is a matter of historical record. And even if one of the current bills to cut the cord should pass through the Capital to the White House, it’s still likely to be tabled in the oval office — at least for now.

Even so, populist outrage over burgeoning public debt suggests that the perennial proposal to eliminate all federal funding for public broadcasting may finally find its legs in the halls of Congress — and that could well be causing some discomfort for those whose interests align with the advancement of HD Radio.

Consider the following:

  • A substantial number of HD Radio conversion projects over the past seven years or so have been funded with CPB digital technology grants. In 2009 alone, roughly $6 million was awarded to CPB-eligible public radio applicants for digital projects. Much of that money found its way to broadcast equipment manufacturers and vendors struggling through turbulent financial times.
  • During the 2010 grant application cycle, CPB stated clearly that it would give priority to public radio stations looking to upgrade their transmission facilities in order to accommodate newly increased IBOC digital power levels.
  • The contribution NPR Labs has made — and continues to make — in terms of IBOC-related R&D cannot be overstated. And NPR Labs relies directly on the CPB grant engine for many of its projects.
  • All of this comes at a time when radio’s private sector has nearly flat-lined on fresh capital investment in IBOC-related projects.

So regardless of their political differences, or their opinions about IBOC technology, one thing all broadcasters — public and private — can probably agree upon is that de-funding CPB now would be bad news indeed for HD Radio.

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One Response

  1. “The contribution NPR Labs has made — and continues to make — in terms of IBOC-related R&D cannot be overstated.”

    “Oh Well, on With the Experiment…”

    “The saga continues. It’s remarkable that the development of the IBOC system began well over 20 years ago, yet it still seems to be an ongoing experiment… In their 2008 report, they warned of dire consequences that would ensue from a blanket FM IBOC power increase. They had plenty of statistics to back this up, derived from studies of numerous stations, using sophisticated propagation prediction tools. According to these results, there were some significant interference problems even at the existing –20 dBc power level. But then another study is hastily done, and now we’re told: Oops, our mistake, a blanket increase of 6 dB is actually just fine, and even a 10 dB increase will be okay in most cases.”

    http://rwonline.com/article/99768

    iBiquity sure loves NPR Labs for fudging the FM-HD power increase.

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