Proposed CPB De-funding Would Hurt HD Radio

March 16, 2011

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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