KUT’s $6 Million Cure for the Doldrums

Step Right Up!

KUT’s $6 Million Cure for the Doldrums

Julys in Austin, Texas, can be brutal. Triple-digit temps are the norm and rainfall is generally scarce. Plus, as they say, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity.” Which some wags change to, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the stupidity.” So to beat the summer doldrums and the humidity/stupidity, people come up with all kinds of cures and escapes, some wonderful, others not so much. Long sessions in chilly Barton Springs are on the wonderful side, long sessions of chilled Jaegermeister are not. And over at KUT radio the station managers always seems to come out with their own cure for the doldrums, whether their listeners like them or not.

For instance, back in July of 2009 they decided to beat the heat by doing an all-out assault on the old guard at the station—by announcing a major shakeup in programming, eliminating the long-running and popular “Phil Music Program”and condemning the only two nights of jazz programming in Austin to their HD radio channel, apparently never to be heard of again. Many listeners, this author included, hit the ceiling, and then hit the streets. Town hall-type meetings were held as well as benefit concerts and a write-in campaign to both station managers and to the Dean of Communications, Roderick Hart. None of it had any effect whatsoever. Dean Hart made it clear he would be backing station managers Stewart Vanderwilt and Hawk Mendenhall 100%, and the changes would remain in place no matter how many listeners complained. As a result some folks gave up and quit listening, but some of us kept chipping away.

Then fast forward a year. This time the big summer doldrums buster was the announcement that starting in August of 2010 KUT would take over operations at the Cactus Café, a nationally renowned music spot that is part of the UT Student Union. Longtime Cactus manager Griff Luneberg had been ousted and transferred to “other duties” within UT Systems, and KUT would be coming in to take over. You can see the announcement here,  a move that left many patrons unhappy. Some saw it as the end result of months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by KUT managers to establish a direct connection with a live venue to tie their playlists to. Before this takeover the Cactus was rarely mentioned on air, but since then the cross-promotions have seemed endless.

So it didn’t really come as too big a surprise when this summer KUT announced their newest doldrums cure; it was just the scope of it all that raised eyebrows. This year’s blockbuster is that Vanderwilt, Mendenhall & Company have now decided that what they really need is a whole new station to play with; having just the one is so-o-o ten years ago! The station in question is KXBT 98.9-FM, currently an oldies station. And, as per their usual modus operandi, KUT did not say anything about the proposed purchase to their listeners or members. There was nothing said on air and no mention of it on their website. I was first alerted to it by Kenya Lewis over at College Radio United. She sent along this announcement from Radio Insite, which I believe was the first public mention of the proposed sale. There was certainly no word of it on KUT’s website.The next mention of the proposal was on the morning of July 11, the day the UT Regents were to vote on it. But there was an unexpected twist: First Austin’s daily paper, the Austin American-Statesman, came out with an announcement saying that the proposal had been tabled, and then KUT’s first on-air mentions started, as small items on KUT’s news spots. Finally, later that afternoon, a blurb about the proposed buy and the tabling of the proposal was added to the KUT website, four short paragraphs with scant information but with the following quote from KUT management: “The chancellor said his office has received some questions about this proposal. We’ll work with him and the regents to answer those questions.” There was no elaboration on just what those questions might have been.

But, according to an excellent article in the following Sunday edition of the Statesman, the proposed acquisition will bring about major changes, splitting KUT’s programming between two frequencies. All music programming would be moved to the new 98.9 frequency and be broadcast as KUTX, leaving news and talk at the old 90.5. Considering that KUT currently claims to be about 50/50 music and news, that would leave about 12 hours of programming waiting to be filled on each frequency. Just what it will be filled with is anybody’s guess at this point. But I doubt that is the question that tabled the proposal.

Just what those questions actually were has not been divulged, but according to the Statesman the questions may have more to do with the future of radio listenership itself than anything to do with KUT alone. In fact, the major snag for the deal may be an unwillingness to invest more of UT’s money in what some see as a dying medium. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the future of terrestrial radio, much of it well thought out but debatable. And back in 2009 a survey of UT students found that a surprisingly high number of them were largely unaware of KUT’s existence, even though its studio is located on campus and its license held by the university.

So the idea of UT Systems providing a $6 million loan to expand terrestrial radio is something that would certainly bear some scrutiny. And if the Chancellor’s office has questions, then station members may well have some of their own. But while Mr.Vanderwilt may be used to answering questions from his bosses at UT, his history shows little interest in answering to station members. But this time management may actually have to deign to step down from their lofty dais and actually explain their intentions to their donors, however painful that may be. So I’d like to start with a list of my own—a Top Ten if you will. So here we go:

  1. According to the proposal, station management has been working with Public Radio Capital (PRC) in analyzing the deal, a deal in which PRC has a financial interest. PRC is well known for brokering the sale of college stations; they were involved in the sale of KTRU at Rice, WDUQ at Duquesne, and KUSF at the University of San Francisco to name a few. When you add in that the broker on the sellers side, Greg Guy, was also associated with the KUSF sale, the whole deal seems littered with people involved in the loss of college stations across the country. Was any thought given to using a more appropriate broker, one without the baggage and with no financial stake in the deal?
  2. In the same article it mentions that there will be a $250,000 fee paid to Public Media Company, the acquisition arm of Public Radio Capital. A $25,000 “option payment” has already been made. The source of that money is said to be “KUT local funds.” Will any money donated by members during pledge drives or the recent Million Dollars in a Week fundraiser in May be used for these fees?
  3. A few years ago KUT made a multimillion-dollar investment in acquiring and operating HD channels at KUT. Will there be any additional development of the HD channels if this purchase is approved, and just what type of programming will remain on the HD channels, if any?
  4. According to the proposal to the Trustees, aside from the money paid to PRC and its affiliate Public Media Company, the $6 million purchase would be paid by a loan from UT’s “Unexpected Plant Fund” at 4% for 20 years. KUT will then repay the loan from revenues generated by “sponsorship revenues and gifts.” Same question as #2 above: Will KUT members be paying for any of this through money generated during pledge drives, etc.?
  5. Multimillion-dollar deals such as this generally take months to get worked out before being submitted for approval. While discretion about pending deals is understandable, such a large expenditure would surely be of interest to members who have donated money to KUT. Has there been any public record of discussions on this matter?
  6. If the station is going to be split into two separate entities with one being all music, the other dedicated to news and talk, there will be many hours of additional programming time to be filled. And there will need to be decisions concerning local programming versus canned programming from other sources. Will station members be allowed a voice in those decisions?
  7. As an NPR affiliate, KUT currently has several hours of NPR programming in its schedule. Has NPR also been involved in the planning of this deal?
  8. Considering that the proposal has been tabled for the time being, will station managers be willing to open up a discussion with its members to see if this is something that its membership will actually support?
  9. The proposal mentions the Cactus Café fairly prominently. In fact, it states that the new KUTX will be “a high-profile platform for promoting and sharing content from the Cactus Café.” According to news reports before KUT stepped in, the Cactus had been losing money for years. What will the Cactus Café’s role be with this new KUT entity, and will monies be shared between the two?
  10. And finally, a venture of this magnitude would have to have been shepherded along by top management, and there would need to be some accountability if it falls apart. If this deal does not get approved, then who will bear the responsibility for that failure?

So that is my Top Ten for KUT management at this point. I am sure that they will be forthcoming with more information on this matter soon, just as I also believe that the sun will rise in the west tomorrow and that Santa Claus is indeed coming to town. So far in their tenure at KUT, Messrs. Vanderwilt and Mendenhall have proven fairly well bulletproof with their changes to the station. But this seems to be their grand vision for the very future of the station, a crowning achievement of sorts. I would seriously doubt that Stewart Vanderwilt would have ever placed this proposal on the Regents agenda if he had harbored any doubts of it getting approved. Since it has now been tabled indefinitely it would have to be seen as an embarrassment as well as a possible lack of confidence from the people holding the purse strings. If his grand vision gets turned down before it even gets started, just what will their fallback plan be? At this site we’ve been watching things over there for years. If the Regents punt on this and the deal falls through, it will be “KXBT? KXBT who?” going into the future. Or at least until next summer when the doldrums return and they are once again reaching out for that ever-elusive Miracle Cure. So stay tuned here, and in the meantime, Step Right Up!

—Rev Jim

Engineer-Speak for “Dud”

This post, “Radio’s digital dilemma: broadcasting in the 21st century,” on the University of Illinois website, pretty much says it all — Big Money (and NPR) muscled compliant FCC into a system designed to make a few people rich and thwart competition, ends up being trash:

The interaction of policy and technological development in the era of “convergence” is messy and fraught with contradictions. The best expression of this condition is found in the story behind the development and proliferation of digital audio broadcasting (DAB). Radio is the last of the traditional mass media to navigate the convergence phenomenon; convergence itself has an inherently disruptive effect on traditional media forms. However, in the case of radio, this disruption is mostly self-induced through the cultivation of communications policies which thwart innovation. A dramaturgical analysis of digital radio’s technological and policy development reveals that the industry’s preferred mode of navigating the convergence phenomenon is not designed to provide the medium with a realistically useful path into a 21st century convergent media environment. Instead, the diffusion of “HD Radio” is a blocking mechanism proffered to impede new competition in the terrestrial radio space. HD Radio has several critical shortfalls: it causes interference and degradation to existing analog radio signals; does not have the capability to actually advance the utility of radio beyond extant quality/performance metrics; and is a wholly proprietary technology from transmission to reception. Despite substantive evidence in the record clearly warning of HD Radio’s fundamental detriments, the dominant actors in the policy dialogue were able to quell these concerns by dint of their economic might and through intensive backstage discourse directly with the Federal Communications Commission. Since its official proliferation in 2002, HD Radio’s growth has stagnated; some early-adopter stations are actually abandoning the protocol and receiver penetration is abysmal. As a result, the future of HD Radio is quite uncertain. Domestically, the entire process of HD Radio’s regulatory approval can be seen as a capstone in the history of communications regulation which favors neoliberal ideology over empirical engineering data and a vocal public interest. However, the apparent failure of digital radio is not confined to the United States: the dilemma of DAB’s adoptive weakness is a global and technologically agnostic phenomenon. Perhaps this says something about the inherent necessity of digitizing radio, and invites significant confusion over the future identity of “radio” as we know it today. If DAB were to fail, the outcome would invite entirely new ways of thinking about the future of broadcasting in a convergent media environment.

Hip Deep in the Big Muddy of HD Radio

A correspondent sent this link along about the latest developments in HD radio, along with a scathing commentary about what this latest insanity portends:

From http://www.radio-info.com/newsletter/html/tri-11302011.html this morning (11/30):

HD RadioImproving HD Radio reception is the goal of an FCC Public Notice on “Asymmetric sideband operations”, and now we’ve got the comment dates. Comments are due by December 19, with reply comments due January 3. This is the story TRI told you about on November 2 – “’Asymmetric’ may not sound sexy, but it might be one key to improving coverage for HD Radio FMs.’ Basically, the Commission says “a significant number of FM stations are precluded from taking advantage of the full 10 dB digital power increase permitted by the order, due to the presence of a nearby station on one but not both of the first first-adjacent channels.” If stations could run an “asymmetrical” signal – stronger on one side – they could raise digital power.

So the Federal Cookie Company is moving ahead with this idiotic idea.  It won’t improve “HD” coverage significantly, but it will increase interference to adjacents, at least on one side of the analog channel.

The “HD” signals are not sidebands in the literal sense of the word. They are two independently generated digital signals, one occupying the closer half of each first-adjacent channel.  And they are not synchronized.  That accounts for both for the excessive time delay imposed on the analog signal, which is necessary to keep it synchronized with the digital output at the receiver, and for the “HD” system’s relative (not absolute) advantage in the face of multiplex under some (not all) conditions.  (The two “HD” signals seldom suffer identical interference, and an “HD” receiver delays the two side-channel signal, picking and choosing whichever parts of each signal seem most intact to reconstruct an undamaged digital stream.)

Of course, that won’t work if one of the two digital side-channel signals is too weak to use!

So where could this increase the coverage range for “HD” FM?  Only on fixed (not mobile) receivers with (presumably) outdoor antennas.  Indoor antennaswould be subject to the effects of people — or pets? — getting too close and interferreing with marginal signals.  So who has that?  How about translators?

I can see no practical purpose (and I use the word “practical” loosely!) for asymmetrical “HD” except to enlarge the area where a network of analog translators could be used to make it possible for a signal from an HD-2 or HD-3 subchannel to reach a real audience.

Turn Out the Lights

The wags over at Radio-info.com discussion boards are giving the post mortems on HD radio. The link there from radioskeptic leads to the following from a laid-off employee at iBiquity, huckster company extraordinaire, which has managed to float for nigh on ten years without a discernible ROI:

iBiquity = Titanic

That place had around 5 or 6 “Business Actions” in 2010. Every day you wondered if you were going to get a call from the dragon lady (AKA Cankles) in HR to tell you that your time is up and how much “they hate to do this.” Personally, I’m glad to have gotten laid-off from that sinking ship. I dreaded going in there on Monday, and it would only be Saturday morning! They have been wanting to get their IPO for the last 5 years and with the way things are going, it is never going to happen. Investors are no longer shelling out money to make HD Radio work. It has exsisted for over 10 years and 90% of the population STILL has no idea what it is, or the benefits of having an HD Radio. Another thing… I watched people who founded the company, and who were there from the start, get laid off, and basically had the rug pulled out from under them. If anyone was ever stabbed in the back, it was these guys. I am a guy, but guess I didn’t fit into their “Ole Boys Network.” Please save yourself and stay clear of this company. They will tell you how great you are, drop you when you’ve worked your rear end off for them and then send you home with what their definition of a severance package is. The severance was laughable, just like those jokers in “upper management.”

I must explain . . . a single “Business Action” would include 10+ people at a time, when they only have around 80 people still working there. They have a bare bones engineering department, and the way things are going, those are the last people that should be getting the axe.

John Anderson on HD

John Anderson of DIYmedia.net (link on right) has kept abreast of the debacle that has been HD radio, and this latest post, reprinted in its entirety, pretty much sums it up. How can this company, with no basic income, still be around — particularly given the hopelessness of its product and prospects:

HD Radio Still Awaiting Breakthrough

It’s still a mystery just how iBiquity Digital Corporation remains in business as its proprietary HD Radio standard continues to go nowhere fast.

According to the FCC, less than 20% of radio stations in in the United States have adopted the HD protocol, nearly nine years after its proliferation was sanctioned; some have since turned it off. The technology has failed to crack any significant international markets. iBiquity and its mostly-conglomerate backers have tried various tweaks to the system in hopes of improving its robustness, but none show any potential to be a game-changer.

The HD Radio Alliance, a consortium of proponents who have devoted hundreds of millions of dollars worth of airtime to promoting HD Radio, also appear to be slacking on that support in favor of investments in other digital technologies which don’t directly involve over-the-air broadcasting.

Two-thirds of the respondents to an informal Radio Business Report poll say they have no plans to adopt HD. This seems to accurately reflect an increasing disdain within the industry about the system and its prospects. (The only exception to this seems to be Radio World commentator “Guy Wire,” but it’s hard to take a nom de plume seriously and even he seems to be wavering).

These are just the quandaries facing the transmission side of HD adoption. Receivers remain scarce; some manufacturers and retailers have abandoned the technology and those who have invested in an HD-capable radio are underwhelmed by the system’s performance in the real world. There’s no evidence to show that listener demand for HD Radio is improving from its anemic condition, either.

Proponents of the technology cite the fact that more vehicle manufacturers are implementing HD Radio into their dashboards, but this is not a viable sign of its popularity.

Last decade, when the notion of tethering smartphones into the car and/or directly implementing in-vehicle wireless Internet access was more idea than reality, automakers resisted the implementation of HD Radio because of its proprietary nature (with associated costs) and lack of qualitative usefulness. In a nutshell, they did not see the value in adding HD functionality to their entertainment systems because it didn’t provide enough return on investment.

Now the auto industry is enthusiastically embracing the “glass dashboard,” in which HD Radio is just one functionality — and a subsidiary one at that — among many new features. Now it’s become economically inconsequential for vehicle manufacturers to add HD compatibility in the midst of undertaking such a significant investment in the promulgation of other, newer mobile communication and entertainment technologies. In this context, HD Radio is a dull piece of bling in the galaxy of dashboard convergence.

iBiquity has responded in scattershot fashion to try and wake the patient from its coma. The company slashed its licensing fees, offered generous financial assistance to encourage broadcaster adoption, and most recently, implemented a weak “contest” with cash prizes in an attempt to inspire local radio sales staffs to pitch FM-HD’s multicasting feature more pointedly.

CEO Bob Struble recently penned a column in which he predicted the success of HD Radio would rest on the datacasting element it brings to the radio experience. But even he’s sounding a bit desperate: “[W]e need to get on it, now, because fully featured devices are being sold, now, and consumer impressions are being made, now. Most folks understand the upgrade process will be gradual, but the industry needs to show consistent progress.”

Therein lies the dilemma: how does a company with no independent revenue entice broadcasters to adopt a digital radio technology with net detriments, and how can it possibly convince receiver-makers and listeners to care in the face of such a feeble situation? There’s no credible answer to these questions, and so long as that remains the case it’s difficult to see how HD Radio can honestly claim title to broadcasting’s digital future.

Can You Hear Me Now?

On the Audizine website, this damning exchange about HD radio just about says it all. With word of mouth like this, who needs enemies?

pcblion: Just picked up my 2011 S4 about a week ago and today I started having a problem with my radio and I was wondering if there are any others out there that have had this problem in the past. When I change radio stations to a station that broadcasts in HD, the music plays for about 5 seconds then fades out. I have no problem playing non-HD stations, and I haven’t tried XM stations yet to see if they are still working. I don’t think it is a reception issue because I haven’t had any problems for the past week in the areas that I drive and the music plays perfectly clear for those 5 seconds until it fades out. I dug through the MMI menus for a while to see if I may have accidentally set some sort of preview mode, but I haven’t found anything. Just wondering if anyone has had this issue or knows of a fix before I take it back to the dealership to troubleshoot. Thanks.

KZ: I experienced the exact same phenomenon in our family’s 2011 S4. I am a hopeless audiophile and I noticed it immediately. It drives me crazy. The car is my mother’s daily driver and I just haven’t had time to take it to the service center yet. This is my first experience with HD radio, surely it can’t just nominally suck this bad?! If you find anything out or get useful info form service people, please pass it on! I will do the same.

goony: The HD radio has $hitty reception; especially when listening to an HD channel. Some have likened it to losing cell phone reception and then picking up the next tower. This is a huge disappointment with this vehicle and I tend to listen to the Sirius because of it……..but perhaps that’s the plan to keep the subscriptions active. My previos car’s non HD stereo had much stronger sound than the B&O. In short, HD sucks! P.S. – I brought this up to my SM and he was unaware of any issues and found no TSB’s addressing it.

dr bryan: HD radio in my area sounds like crap, too, but that’s because it’s broadcast in such a low bitrate… Just like Satellite, they cut the bitrate so they can broadcast more channels on the same bandwidth. Just go in to MMI and turn off the HD radio and it will do only FM. You will lose the extra stations but most of those are crap where I’m from.

qtrocar: I’m having a problem which might be the same, but at a minimum, it is similar. The problem that I’m having is that while listening to HD Radio, the voice becomes strained, and it takes on a synthetic, almost electronic quality for a few seconds, and then the normal voice and normal tone return. Just as goony said, I also brought this up to my service advisor, and they did not know of the problem, and did not know of a fix.

zerinA4: It isn’t just your car, but a problem with HD radio as a whole. I’m in and out of a new car just about every week and EVERY single car I’ve tested with HD radio from VW to BMW to Jaguar has this issue.

Word that new red whiz-bang HD radio has hit . . . errr, plopped . . . on the market had them hooting on the Radio-info.com discussion board:

Savage: RHOADS RIDES AGAIN! MIGHTY-RED PERPETRATOR CALLS FOR HD “RE-LAUNCH”

Eric Rhoads, who graced us with direct sales of an Insignia portable knockoff sprayed red and dubbed “Mighty Red,” wants everyone to line up for a repeat fleecing by HD Radio. In an e-mail blast titled “Let’s Re-Launch HD Radio,” Rhoads opines that all we have to do is call HD something else/different and append the superlative “NEW!!!” to it — then — just like THAT! Radio will presumably have a cool new success to crow about!

Shocked ABSOLUTELY!!  GREAT freakin’ idea, Eric!!!

We can cross-market HD in all kinds of categories!! Think of HD, factory-standard in your new Segway scooter — sold nationwide at every neighborhood Bricklin-Yugo dealership!! HD can be part of an interior-appointment package including little cupholder trays for Olestra potato chips and New Coke!  HD branding can be applied to a whole new line of fanny-packs and cellphone holsters, etc. It’ll be like the return of…..DISCO!!!

Ahem….  Roll Eyes

“With all due respect…..” Meaning, not much — this is the kind of “thinking” that put the radio industry into a seven-year jackpot, doing such productive things as HD Radio and blowing millions on a paranoid lawsuit over satellite radio. “Re-launch HD Radio?” I see. Let’s try once again to foist an unparalleled market failure on the public and try to sell the idea that THIS time, it’s somehow different. “We just didn’t discover the right lies last time….”

SirRoxalot: How about if everybody turns in their Iniquity licenses and uses the money for better quality programming? We’ve got plenty of radio stations already. We don’t really need more. The analog signal is better than any digital signal. Even AM stereo in the old C-QUAM format was better than The Buzz.

Content is the real issue, not technology. Radio technology has gone backwards in the last decade. Settle on technology supported by the BILLIONS of existing receivers, add modern processing, and spend the money on content. See, isn’t that simple?

Turn Out the Lights

Phyllis Stark, writing in her Stark Country newsletter on Radio-Info.com, had some more bad news for the few remaining HD radio proponents, here printed in its entirety:

In last Thursday’s issue, we raised the question “HD Radio: What Went Wrong?” after radio panelists at a recent convention debated that very topic and concluded that HD Radio is in intensive care at best, or on life support at worst. The story generated a lot of reader mail. Surprisingly, not one person defended HD Radio or argued for its survival. Here’s a sampling of the responses.

• “As one who watched the introduction of HD Radio here in the U.S.A. and back home in Australia, I remember all the hype, the ads, and the shock and disappointment of the cost of HD Radios. When we leave our offices each day we return to being a consumer in a time of world financial turmoil. I found myself asking the same question I imagine many consumers asked themselves when buying that new clock radio for the bedroom: ‘The brand new, wiz bang HD unit at $100, or the $15 Wally World, no name, generic one?’ I’m betting you all did exactly the same thing.

“This is not like the introduction of digital TV that had hard changeover dates looming over our heads. If we the industry don’t embrace the technology in our own homes, given the added cost, why would we expect the listeners to do so?

“Streaming, to me, has always been the better option. It’s cheaper to implement, cheaper to access for the listener, and I think has better monetizing opportunities. We just changed our stream host provider, and now our streaming has begun to make money.” —Jack Alexander, owner, Lone Dawg Radio and host, “The Jack Alexander Experiment”

• “Other than PPM that affects the top markets, HD Radio has a couple thorns that really need to be addressed [including] floor space and general Internet streaming, along with smart phones (iPhone, Droid, etc). As Randy Michaels pointed out at the R&R Talk Radio Seminar in 2005, the problem with satellite and HD Radio is it’s one-way transmission. With streaming, computers or smart devices, there’s a two-way aspect where the listeners vote on the songs, purchase the songs and have ways to interact with the advertisers along with the radio station bringing all of this to them.

“I’m in market 211ish and, trust me, I cannot find an HD Radio in any retail store locally. In walking through my local Best Buy, I see XM/Sirius and Pandora devices, but no HD Radio. Even worse, try to find one as an option from a car manufacturer’s Web site.

“When I worked for Clear Channel about six years ago, I had an e-mail discussion with a corporate technical type telling him that this is a problem and I cannot find one to put into my existing vehicle unless it was from a catalog/online store out of New York that I had to do deep Internet searching for. The floor space problem still persists.” — Jeff Williams, director of operations, Knight Broadcasting Inc. (KSMA/KUHL/KRAZ/KSYV) Santa Maria, Calif.

• “In my opinion, HD Radio was DOA. Much of the initial lack of excitement can be attributed to the name. I’ve never understood why it was thought a good idea to use a term we associate with TV—‘HD’—to radio. That alone seems like a monumentally bad idea.

“Secondly, it’s been poorly and sporadically marketed. I think it should have been rolled out with major companies already onboard. The initial impact of HD Radio was, to be kind, a bit tepid. It’s not improved. A big debut could have gone a long way.

“Thirdly, radio broadcasters have rarely acted together in their own self-interest. Cable and satellite TV providers support an R&D facility where the idea is to constantly come up with new ways to attract and hold viewers. Can you imagine major broadcasters financially supporting the same kind of support system?

“Radio has been and remains a nation of tribes—each thinking they know more than the other and each suspicious and mistrusting. If the radio industry ever got together at a level more than conferences and statements, amazing things might happen.

“Finally, for decades I’ve thought the real challenge of traditional radio broadcasters will be the Internet. It’s a force that can’t be ignored and only gets more powerful, while traditional radio keeps hollering that they’re not dead, they can compete, etc.

“HD Radio was never well-thought out and there was no real goal. Is it a surprise that it’s now irrelevant?” —Radio veteran Danny Wright

• “The biggest factor to me of NOT getting HD Radio was the much reduced power that broadcasters use to transmit their HD signals. I work at KIIM-FM Tucson, Ariz., part time. KIIM-FM transmitters are on Tucson’s far NW side. I live on Tucson’s far East side. I couldn’t receive the HD signals at all. It appeared to me the only solution would be an outdoor antenna, which just wasn’t practical. I don’t know all of the technological reasons for such a low signal, but after I found this out by testing a receiver at a Radio Shack store near my house, I made the decision NOT to purchase HD.” —Bob Jones, Tucson, Ariz.

• “The dirty little secret about HD is that the signal coverage is significantly less than the analog signal. So unless you are within 20-25 miles of a 50K FM, you’ll have trouble picking it up.” —Name withheld by request

• “A giant white elephant. Retailers never had the receivers, and the ones that did had no idea what they were. Big confusion with the listener came in February 2009 with the TV analog-to-digital conversion and listeners thought we were talking about TV. I programmed one of these stations for a year and never knew if one person listened to it. As one of the Clear Channel PDs said in our cluster, HD is for the audio quality and not the side channels. Hell, no one knows about the HDTV side channels, let alone radio.” —Chuck Geiger, managing editor, Full Throttle Country

• “Terrible advertising (and tons and tons of it!). Minimal resources. NOT high definition, thus a stupid name [and a] confused selling proposition. Very poor retailer support.” —Bob Wood

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