Sweepers, Man Your Brooms

This post yesterday, “The Death of HD Radio, Round 2,” on audiographics.com pretty much sums up what we’ve been saying all along — despite what iBiquity suits trumpet, along with their fellow conspirators . . . errr, investors. The article leads with a repeat of a 2007 article on the site, back when iBiquity’s website proclaimed, “HD radio broadcasting is sweeping the country”:

The radio industry is giving off signs that HD Radio is dead, even though we keep hearing bright comments being uttered by iBiquity execs. A recent quote from [then] HD Radio Alliance President/CEO Peter Ferrara “predicts by 2011 (model year 2012) HD Radio will be optional in every car and standard in most.” Mr. Ferrara is either being overly optimistic, or does not understand the business side of getting inside a vehicle’s dashboard.

Another set of words quoted to Mr. Ferrara: “We’ve lost sight of the fact that FM took 10 years to become standard.” He’s not pointing out, though, that FM was building an audience based on programming which related to their lifestyle of the day, and AM was not serving this group. (Kind of sounds like the flight from regular broadcast to new media. But, that’s another article.) Use your own ears and sample HD Radio at Clear Channel, Cox, or iBiquity’s own site (2007 Claimsor Today). Do you hear anything that “relates” in the same way FM did in its early years?…

Next sign, and this is all the more you need to digest on this topic: HD Radio is not being promoted on radio station web sites. The radio industry has given up with “extra” promotion, over that huge commitment made by the HD Radio Alliance that’s forced all member stations to comply.

Despite $230 million committed to promoting HD over the airwaves in 2008, and a few hundred million more spent over the past two years, a recent visit to thirty radio station web sites found only four that had any mention of HD Radio on the home page — and one did not link that mention to anything HD….

The radio industry may be talking up good stories about its intent to compete online, and how HD Radio is being embraced by the audience. But, so far, there’s little evidence that the radio industry is taking anything seriously.

As for the absence of mentioning HD Radio on any of these web sites home pages… that either comes from radio not believing in the power of the internet to sell product (which it can never admit to clients), or its lack of mentioning HD Radio comes from the beginning of the radio industry distancing itself from what’s turning out to be a Huge Disaster!

HD Radio’s death is imminent. It’s only a matter of time, if you read the signs.

Then, this note from “today’:

Current HD Radio President and CEO Bob Struble continues to double-talk HD Radio’s success, with statements like this from his most recent post. “There are more than 2,100 HD Radio stations in over 250 markets reaching 90% of the population. 96% of the top 10 stations in the top 10 markets are now broadcasting digitally and 80% of all radio listening is happening on HD Radio stations.”

Just the use of a smoke and mirrors attempt at explaining HD Radio’s success only reinforces how deep the hole has become.

As Greg Smith points out in the comments section:

The FCC database on HD conversions only lists about 1,925:


For years, iBiquity has always tacked on an extra 200 HD Radio stations. Of course, this does not account for the numbers of AM/FM HD stations that have turned off their signals.

And on the Radio-Info.com discussion board, CBS president Dan Mason’s optimistic blathering about HD (asserting that “once digital takes over on AM, it completely cleans up the AM band”) is dissected by the engineering wags:

Zach: Digital and AM simply were not meant to go together, at least not in the form that’s being foisted on us now.  It’s just not sufficient for high fidelity sound reproduction. Which is odd, considering wideband AM stereo is plenty sufficient for 75% of music and speech use NOW, but it’s forgotten technology.

Nick: KDKA and WBZ interfere with each other in the other’s markets. CBS is too dumb to realize that.

Sir Roxalot: The big boys would love to own the AM band, and drive off all those small-time operators – especially after dark. If you’ve got 50KW, you’d love to go back to the days when everybody else on the channel went off at sunset instead of running their 100W to service their little local market. HD — on either AM or FM — was never designed to be a friend to small players.

Tom Wells: [H]e forgets to admit that there CAN be no digital signal unless an “analog” vestigal “carrier” still exists to reference against. So the hash WILL be spread as wide as it is now, it just won’t have to allow that 10khz of space for the 5 khz of audio to exist.

radioskeptic: Dan Mason apparently has no understanding whatsoever of principles of medium wave propagagtion. Frankly, I don’t respect his opinion on any aspect of broadcasting. Why not? Because I can’t possibly respect an anti-labor executive who got his start in management as a strikebreaker.

See http://www.amandfmmorningside.com/wpgc_the_great_strike_that_struck_out.html

(And save it to a thumb drive, if not to your hard drive, before Mason finds a way to get it pulled off the web!)

Savage: Anybody who thinks that HD “completely cleans up the AM band” is crazy. Or an idiot. Possibly both?

Tom Wells has cogently set forth the issue: not enough bandwidth. (Not to mention, not enough consumer or broadcaster interest. At its peak, HD-AM was broadcast on fewer than 2% of AM stations in the US and that since that time, early 2009, 21% of the few stations using the system have turned it off. I am unaware of any new AM-HD installations in over two years. Nor am I aware of any significant number of stations using AM-HD outside of the USA. There are no AM-HD receivers even being marketed any more, so far as I know. Precisely how are we “going to get more HD receivers into the marketplace” when they aren’t even being sold?? How all these pesky little details escaped CBS Radio’s CEO is anyone’s guess, but I would suggest “willful blindness.” Mason is a former top iBiquity executive, as is his engineer Glynn Walden, so they both probably have a financial stake in HD in the form of stock or paid consultancies or something.)

Even if there’s some kind of nihilist-doomsday dream by HD perpetrators that somehow all smaller operators will be driven off the band leaving only big groups and, say, half the AMs that currently exist, HD still wouldn’t work. The skywave interference from universal HD adoption would be catastrophic. Nobody would have any night service. And there would be no AM listeners left because (a) the digital signals aren’t robust enough and (b) nobody’s going to buy new AM receivers.


3 Responses

  1. As usual Bob Struble is the King of Weasel words. His statement that “80% of all radio listening is happening on HD Radio stations” may or may not be true. But listening to an ‘HD Radio station” isn’t the same as listening to their HD radio signal or channel. I listen to KUT but I don’t own an HD radio. Tho I might buy one as a museum piece for future generations……….

  2. Of significance is that Clear Channel has taken off the link to HD Radio on their iheartradio.com website — it used to be up in the right-hand corner, as a link to a common area for their HD stations.

  3. […] Carlisle Brooms on […]

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