Archive for the ‘media consolidation’ Category

NPR Stations: White Mice of HD Radio

September 5, 2007

How HD Radio Came to NPR

After decades, Washington, DC public station WAMU-FM is sending Bluegrass and other local music programs into that “Lonesome Valley” of HD RadioÒ where there is no one to hear them. Actually, there will be at least a thousand listeners. The station is giving away a thousand HD table radios. 

The FCC only approved digital HD Radio multicasting on March 22nd, but National Public Radio (NPR) has been hot to trot since May 2001, even before the FCC adopted the iBiquity HD Radio standard. Public stations have used it experimentally since 2004. NPR stations are the white mice of HD Radio. NPR headquarters for HD was even named the NPR Lab. 

The HD Radio patents and trademark are owned by iBiquity Digital Corporation, formed by the 2000 merger of Lucent Digital Radio and US Digital Radio. “HD” is for “Hybrid Digital/analog“, not “high-definition.” Rob Beschizza of Wired calls the term a “naughty backronym,” meant to imply a tech quality the product does not have. Technically speaking — stay with me now — HD plunks several digital signals onto conventional radio broadcasts. This is called “IBOC” for “In Band, On Channel.”  (more…)

A Hole in the Air

September 3, 2007

If a station broadcasts and no one hears it, does it make a sound? 


Washington’s WAMU-FM, American University’s radio station, was built by fans of Bluegrass music. In gratitude, the station is burying Bluegrass in a big, deep hole in the air called HD Radio.

“HD Radio,” a trademark of the monopoly iBiquity Digital Corporation, is a system that lets today’s AM and FM radio stations broadcast two additional digital streams of alternative programming on top of their regular signals. HD signals don’t interfere with regular content because they cannot even be picked up by conventional radio receivers. And that’s the problem.

No one is buying HD equipment, and car manufacturers are stalling, so no one is listening to HD radio. No one is listening, so few stations broadcast in HD.  Current HD doesn’t sound that much better than conventional FM radio, either. HD radio today is a big hole in the airwaves, so deep that WAMU’s Bluegrass music won’t even echo. (more…)