IBOC Update - Jun 23, 2004

June 23, 2004


  • Kelly on Mastering HD Radio at Conclave XXIX
  • Greater Media's WPEN Swings Philly with Digital AM Sound
  • NAB weighs in on FCC's FNPRM and NOI
  • WEMU-FM Becomes First Michigan Digital Public Broadcaster
  • IBOC by State: Indiana
  • An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio
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    Kelly on Mastering HD Radio at Conclave XXIX
    The Conclave, a cross-format broadcast exchange organization for professional development since 1976, will present "HD Radio: Digital Viagra for AM and FM!" at its Conclave XXIX gathering July 15 to 18 in Minneapolis, MN. The conference is the only place to experience a session designed specifically for the Conclave by Don Kelly, a 25-year programming veteran. The session will offer a multimedia presentation on HD Radio technology for AM and FM, with a special foreplay preview session sponsored by Ibiquity on Thursday morning, July 15 followed by the main presentation, taking place on Saturday afternoon, July 17. Kelly is broadcast strategic marketing manager for Ibiquity Digital Corporation and will be joined during the main presentation by Omnia Audio President and audio processing guru Frank Foti.

    The session will provide an opportunity to hear the sound of today's analog radio compared side by side with digital HD Radio. Kelly will share strategies being used by today's most respected and successful programmers and managers to launch HD Radio on many of the more than 300 licensed stations. Attendees will also learn about program-associated data (PAD) and the many ways to use HD Radio technology to generate NTR and to promote events and content without adding clutter. The presentation will conclude with a demonstration of the future of FM radio: the HD Radio 5.1 Surround Sound System followed by Q and A.

    Don Kelly started in radio at KFRC. His present role is as a collaborator with programmers and managers working toward the successful introduction of HD Radio technology. In Kelly's words, "HD Radio is clearly the next big thing, the single most important innovation and target rich opportunity on radio's horizon - understanding how to get the most out of HD Radio technology is high on the agenda of every great program director today." This is his first appearance at the Conclave Learning Conference.

    Frank Foti is the founder and president of Omnia Audio, a company that researches and designs signal processing for every form of broadcast transmission.

    Conclave XXIX, entitled Paradigm 2004: It's Full of Shift! begins July 15 and concludes July 18, 2004 at the Marriott City Center in Downtown Minneapolis.

    IBOC Across America

    Greater Media's WPEN Swings Philly with Digital AM Sound
    Philadelphia's reputation for successfully mixing tradition and innovation is getting a boost from Greater Media's WPEN, as the 5kW AM pumps its ever popular big band/nostalgia rhythms to its audience through a new HD Radio pipeline. The station, which has been operating an IBOC hybrid digital daytime signal since last January, is not yet actively promoting the new technology, but for chief engineer Larry Paulausky, there is a definite thrill in hearing snare drums and cymbals sizzle on the station's two Kenwood HD Radio receivers.

    "In the beginning", says Paulausky, "we were focused on listening to the signal with an ear for technical performance, but before very long we found ourselves just enjoying the music - we're excited about this technology." He believes that once receivers have sufficient time to penetrate the marketplace, WPEN's audience will feel the same way.

    It might be said that WPEN exemplifies the type of station that holds out the greatest promise for IBOC AM. The station is one of a dwindling number of music-oriented AMs that still hold on to significant piece of a major market audience -but it hopes to boost those numbers as big band fans discover the benefits of digital radio.

    WPEN's group owner Greater Media is unabashed about its total commitment to IBOC digital technology at all of its 19 stations. According to corporate director of engineering Milford "Smitty" Smith, all of the company's properties are currently on track for IBOC digital operation, with five already on the air in Boston and 1 each in Detroit, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

    When asked what kind of difficulties the company encounters during the conversion process, Smith observed that things were proceeding "pretty smoothly." No significant issues surfaced during the WPEN-AM conversion, and the biggest issue facing the company's FMs revolved around finding suitable high-powered ferrite circulators. In fact, Smith asserts that the circulators, essential to isolating multiple transmitters operating into common antenna systems, represent the single piece of the IBOC equation where more competitive product development is needed. But he's quick to point out that this niche will fill up quickly as demand for the product builds. "It's just something that there was very little demand for before now", he says.

    While the FCC deliberates on IBOC digital's implementation and the radio-listening public gradually awakes to the new technology, many in the industry are still unconvinced that HD Radio is really key to radio's future. But if engineers like Smith and Paulausky have their way, they're not likely to remain that way much longer.

    FCC Update

    NAB weighs in on FCC's FNPRM and NOI
    Washington - The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has submitted its anticipated response to the FCC's request for comments on its April 15 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) regarding the implementation of IBOC digital broadcasting in the U.S., as well as the Commission's Notice of Inquiry (NOI) concerning digital content protection. Though the 33-page document contains few surprises, it does provide a detailed look at how the NAB envisions the mainstream adoption of IBOC digital broadcasting.

    The NAB comments, dated June 16, suggest that the FCC adopt a singular watchword in its approach to IBOC broadcasting flexibility. While noting that technical standards are essential, the NAB suggests that the FCC should closely hew to National Radio Standards Committee (NRSC) recommendations - expected in the second half of this year - in establishing the parameters needed to assure optimal interoperability and functionality for broadcasters and consumers. Beyond basic transmission architecture, however, the NAB urges a hands-off approach. For example, the document suggests that supplemental audio channels (SACs) be freely permitted, with no ultimate bit-rates specified for primary digital channels or SACs, noting that this will allow broadcasters to tailor bandwidth as needed to most competitively serve marketplace demand. Likewise, the NAB asks that data services be allowed to freely develop as both subscription and non-subscription services, and that no additional licensing fees or requirements be imposed on their transmission.

    The filing addresses some specific technical issues. The comments urge full and speedy authorization of IBOC FM and AM operation with unlimited hours of operation. This is consistent with the NAB's previous position that most interference increases will generally be offset by the advantages that the new digital services offer, while significant cases of adjacent channel interference caused by AM IBOC digital nighttime operation will best be handled by the FCC on a case-by-case basis. Also mentioned is the suggestion to permit IBOC digital FM stations to use dual antennas, providing they meet NRSC recommended specifications. The comments address the suitability of current EAS equipment as well, saying that any digital audio channels available to the public should probably carry EAS content, and that the current generation of embedded EAS equipment is sufficient to that task. Furthermore, the NAB suggests that any new requirements for digital enhancements to EAS be reserved until hybrid analog/digital operation is eventually supplanted by full digital transmission.

    Addressing broader issues of pubic service and localism, the NAB observes that imposing additional regulatory burden in terms of content requirements is self-defeating to the public interest. Rather, the organization asserts, by allowing broadcasters to adopt and adapt new audio and ancillary services in ways that best suit a given market, desirable characteristics such as localism and program diversity are most likely to develop on a timely basis.

    In answering the FCC's NOI regarding digital content protection, the NAB's response is unambiguous. Observing that digital radio broadcasting is in its infancy and that no proof of economic harm yet exists, the organization points out that the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) demand that anti-copy software be mandated by the Commission is premature at best. Thus, the RIAA's claims are seen as purely speculative in nature, precluding action by the FCC. Furthermore, the NAB points out that reaching any industry consensus on an anti-copy system is bound to be a contentious and lengthy process that would strangle the expedient production of IBOC digital-capable receivers, a situation that would imperil the economic future of radio broadcasting. The comments conclude that such a protection scheme can always be introduced at a later time, when the true nature of any copyright infringement issues that may (or may not) emerge can be thoroughly studied and most effectively addressed.

    A complete copy of the NAB comments can be found at www.nab.org/Newsroom/PressRel/Filings/IBOCNPRMComments61604.pdf.

    Eye on IBOC

    WEMU-FM Becomes First Michigan Digital Public Broadcaster
    Eastern Michigan University's WEMU-FM became that state's first public broadcaster to cross the IBOC digital finish line when it recently commenced HD radio operation from its newly upgraded transmission facility.

    WEMU General Manager Art Timko expects the FCC to approve the Tomorrow Radio system that will allow a station to transmit a secondary audio channel.

    The conversion was accomplished jointly through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and revenue received from renting space on its broadcast tower. Listener funds raised through WEMU's on-air and mail fund-raisers were not used on the project.

    Donovan Reynolds - director of broadcasting for Michigan Public Media, which oversees Michigan Radio - said a similar change to HD Radio for its three stations (WUOM in Ann Arbor, WFUM in Flint and WVGR in Grand Rapids) will cost about $100,000 per station, with federal grants expected to cover a significant portion of the expense. Project timetables call for digital operations to begin by the beginning of the New Year.

    HD Radio has already made inroads with some of the state's commercial radio stations, such as WWJ-AM (950) and WMGC FM (Magic 105.1) in Detroit, as well as WDMK FM (102.7) in Mount Clemens. According to the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB), WDMK was the first commercial station in southeast Michigan to make the switch.

    IBOC by State: Indiana
    Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by State will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.
    Station Format City Licensee On air?
    WNIN-FM 88.3 Classical Evansville Tri State Public Teleplex No
    WILO-AM 1570 Adult Standard Frankfort Kaspar Broadcasting Yes
    WOWO-AM 1190 News/Talk/Sports Ft. Wayne Federated Media Yes
    WFYI-FM 90.1 News/Talk/Info Indianapolis Metropolitan Indianapolis Public Broadcasting No
    WICR-FM 88.7 Classical/Jazz Indianapolis University of Indianapolis No
    WSHW-FM 99.7 AC Lafayette Kaspar Broadcasting Yes

    HD Radio Terminology

    An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio

    AAS: An abbreviation for Advanced Application Services, a class of data services being developed for HD Radio's ancillary data capabilities. Some of the services that have already been demonstrated include traffic reports with mapping features, both commercial and non-commercial expanded messaging services, as well as timely weather and other public safety bulletins.

    To receive these articles twice a month in your e-mail, subscribe to the IBOC Update - Insight on HD Radio e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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