LPFM: Idolatry for disbelievers
     

Guy Wire gets his share of e-mail from LPFM proponents who believe our existing radio bands have gone to hell in a handbasket. They are convinced that LPFM is the best hope that will somehow revive radio listening into something worthwhile for their ilk. DAB will only make matters worse they say. The following letter from Chris Maxwell is typical:

<<< Dear Guy Wire of Radio World,

In your anonymously pro-Digital propaganda (column), you said, "NRSC Chairman Charlie Morgan made a clarion call for such collaboration, pleading, ‘We need DAB and we need it now. Help!’ Broadcasters are starting to feel the heat of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio as very real threats to their radio listening franchise, not mention the Internet.

" And why is that? Do people go to the considerable pain to pick up 16kb and 28kb RealAudio and MP3 streams *JUST* because they are *digital*?

Hmmmmm ... nooooo... people are willing to $pend hundred$ of dollar$ on equipment and monthly $ub$cription$ to BYPASS THE FM DIAL BECAUSE THE PROGRAMMING ON THE FM DIAL BITES!!!!

It is ironic that they *say* "help, we need digital to compete" because what they REALLY need to compete is CONTENT VARIETY.

And that Content Variety offered by Satellite and Internet audio is exactly what LPFM would bring to the FM dial and what 430kHz bandwidth USADR would DESTROY!

IBOC-DAB will not only NOT save FM ... IBOC-DAB WILL DESTROY FM by pushing even more people even more rapidly off the FM dial for their audio needs!!

It’s simple, a lot of stations waste their frequency chasing the same people. As a result, it is easy to have 30 stations in a medium market and NOTHING for major portions of the population! In Richmond Va., we have seven gospel stations, 10 oldies, six or seven country, etc.

If you want anything else you have to try to pull in distant or lower powered local eclectic stations like WCLM 1450AM or WDCE 90.1 FM or WJYJ 90.5 FM or WHRV 89.5FM.

Now if USADR succeeds in duping the FCC into taking their advice and demanding an end to affordable analog and a mandatory update to a digital transmitter ($60,000 to $200,000 upgrade cost) I will not hear those stations ever again.

FIRST, WCLM 1450 is only 20 miles away from a station at 1430, when they both double in bandwidth ---- (hand motion across neck).

FM is worse; WDCE 90.1FM at 100 watts (the only source of eclectic and techno music in Richmond) will be sandwiched between WAUQ 89.7 and WJYJ 90.5FM ... and when all three are required to double their bandwidth they will OVERLAP. Right now I can pick up all three signals fairly well, so this is not a matter of a freak with a yagi and a "lab queen" digital tuner with a 0.1microvolt sensitivity.

Oh, and what of the people in Williamsburg who live in between WAUQ 89.7 and WHRV 89.5FM? They will overlap as well. If you think third adjacent 100 watt LPFM interference is bad, try 30,000 watt OVERLAPPING signals!!

And then again, maybe they won't overlap, because WDCE 90.1 FM is an all-volunteer college station with a yearly budget of about $22,000 ... they might just have to disappear under the burden of mandatory end of affordable analog.

The juicy irony is that when I'm at my office, in my car, jogging with the Walkman, cleaning the house to the radio I DON"T CARE THAT THE AUDIO QUALITY IS SLIGHTLY LOWER THAN DIGITAL.

What I *REALLY* want is more *variety* ... more "programming innovation".

That variety that LPFM ... NOT DIGITAL would bring. Yet we are told to "save" the FM dial from becoming irrelevant we must flush LPFM for Digital. That's irony!

I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE.

1) Duncan American Radio has cited a "historically huge" decrease in Time Spent Listening to Broadcast radio of 12% during the 1990s ... much of that BEFORE the Internet! Duncan cites "increased spot loads and lack of programming innovation." You know, like the programming innovation that would be created by noncommercial LPFM stations!

2) Technology Investor Magazine thought that XM and Sirius would be a good investment because "30% of CDs sold are music genres that are rarely heard on the FM dial". That is FAILURE by the major broadcast chains to serve at least a third of America's music purchasers, not to mention the lack of representation in news and talk of nonconservatives and nonenglish programming.

That is why there has been such an overwhelming support for LPFM. There is no such popular demand for the microscopic increase in sound quality that we would get from radios costing hundreds of dollars just to be "gee whiz" digital.

And as for all the non audio things they want to do ... they have been able to do that for over 20 years with RDS technology and that went over like a lead balloon!

IBOC-DAB is just the latest in a sorry pathetic string of corporate welfare giveaways by our government as large institutions work to pressure Congress to destroy smaller competition and further the concentration of power in the US. >>>

Chris,

I was going to simply ignore your naive and predictably liberal diatribe against DAB and the existing broadcast power structure. Your letter is typical of those in a loud but tiny minority who always find themselves on the outside looking in. You are broadcasting wannabees, with a narrowcasting agenda.

Unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions and twisted facts in your attack, I am utterly compelled to protect the truth so nobody reading this will somehow come away thinking you are making valid points or understand the issues. Let's strip out the real story one point at a time:

<<......people are willing to $pend hundred$ of dollar$ on equipment and monthly $ub$cription$ to BYPASS THE FM DIAL BECAUSE THE PROGRAMMING ON THE FM DIAL BITES!!!! >>

If mainstream FM radio was this bad, radio sales would have fallen off dramatically by now. Ninety-nine percent of American households own at least two radios and use them regularly. Less than 3 percent of the population subscribe to music services provided by cable or satellite. Those that subscribe to a "CD of the month club" deal are also single digits. And the hundred$ of dollar$ of equipment you refer to almost always includes an AM/FM tuner. Not much of a contest here.

<< .....what they REALLY need to compete is CONTENT VARIETY. >>

Competing successfully in today's commercial radio marketplace is fundamentally about choosing and executing a programming format that appeals to a large enough audience so that advertising will be effective. Compelling programming begets ratings. Ratings beget revenue. Revenue begets profits. Profits beget sustaining a business so that employees and shareholders can be paid. Radio economics 101. Even most NCE stations which have to generate underwriting dollars and live within a budget have figured this out.

Formats which feature too much variety have historically been losers. "All over the road" stations don't stay on the road very long. Increasing variety by playing lots of "deep cuts" unfamiliar to the majority of listeners will drive them away. They prefer familiarity and consistency yet not too much predictability. Ask any successful programming consultant. More content variety has already been tried by many who lost at this game and has proven not to be a winning strategy.

<< And that Content Variety offered by Satellite and Internet audio is exactly

what LPFM would bring to the FM dial and what 430 kHz bandwidth USADR would DESTROY! >>

Sure. Satellite and Internet audio is offering a veritable plethora of variety. Hundreds if not thousands of channels of narrowcasted, esoteric, and avante garde meanderings appealing to small and vocal pockets of listeners like you. I hope for your sake the business models these efforts are founded on will find enough financial support to keep them going long enough to be even noticed as a blip on the evolving radio radar screen.

The Internet is really the best place for narrowcasting. You can find all the eclectic programming you want there without polluting a resource meant for broadcasting with a service like LPFM. The radio bands are a limited resource established to serve the greater public interest and are simply not big enough to support every single voice that wants to broadcast.

And where in the world did you get the 430 kHz nonsense about USADR? Both USADR and Lucent worked harder than you'll ever know to make their FM systems fit in the existing 200 kHz bandpass to protect existing NRSC standards. The first USADR effort (FM1/FM2) failed, because it couldn't quite meet that requirement. This is one thing iBiquity is obligated to get right.

<< FIRST, WCLM 1450 is only 20 miles away from a station at 1430, when they both double in bandwidth ---- (hand motion across neck). >>

Double the bandwidth? Utter nonsense again. AM DAB will only be approved when it adequately protects the existing channel allocation infrastructure. They are very close right now. You need to quit hyping a position that is completely indefensible.

<< If you want anything else you have to try to pull in distant or lower powered

local eclectic stations >>Eclectic formats by definition appeal to very small audiences. That’s why there's so few stations doing it. Folks like you can find what you want in CD stores or on line, where supporting an inventory of product in low demand is more feasible and economic than devoting a radio station to it.

<< Now if USADR succeeds in duping the FCC into taking their advice and demanding an end to affordable analog and a mandatory update to a digital transmitter ($60,000 to $200,000 upgrade cost) I will not hear those stations ever again. >>

You just haven't been paying attention. USADR never demanded ending affordable analog. In fact its an integral part of their blending solution to keep fringe area listening possible without annoying dropouts. We don’t yet know what iBiquity will propose here. But rest assured, analog will be around for a long time after DAB is introduced. Eventually it will give way to all digital, but on a time-table yet unknown.

<< What I *REALLY* want is more *variety* ... more "programming innovation". >>

We've already covered variety. More programming innovation is a good thing, but if it means anything significant or has any staying power, it's got to appeal to a decent sized audience. Just playing the off the wall and unknown artists ain't gonna get it done.

<<.....Yet we are told to "save" the FM dial from becoming irrelevant we must flush LPFM for Digital. That's irony! >>LPFM and DAB are not mutually exclusive. IBOC DAB will live within present allocation standards. DAB will enhance the radio listening experience for everyone who uses the radio. Especially AM band listeners. LPFM hopes to do that but only for a tiny fraction of the overall population.

<< Technology Investor Magazine thought that XM and Sirius would be a good investment because "30% of CDs sold are music genres that are rarely heard on the FM dial". That is FAILURE by the major broadcast chains to serve at least a third of America's music purchasers, not to mention the lack of.

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What happens when these fools (automakers) find out that HD Radio simply doen't work well: http://tinyurl.com/ygbspcb
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