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Rational Discussion or Luddite Rants?

“Just taking a run-through of the latest Radio World issue, Oct. 10, and what do I find at the back of the mag? Yet another anti-HD Radio rant by yet another AM Luddite.”

“Just taking a run-through of the latest Radio World issue, Oct. 10, and what do I find at the back of the mag? Yet another anti-HD Radio rant by yet another AM Luddite.”

This is a letter from an industry engineer that I thought you’d want to see; I offered to publish it over his name but he declined. However his points are important to share, so I do so here without identifying him.

This was from a prominent, major-market engineer, a person I like and respect and a man whose name you’d recognize, though he’s not someone who contributes regularly to RW or who has been quoted regularly on this topic before.

“Paul, our AM has been running HD Radio for more than a year and you know what? I haven’t gotten a single call about us causing the world to come to an end as we know it on the AM band. Not a single call.

“Hell Paul, I got more calls when I put my FM on the air with HD Radio (one) than when I fired up the AM. And you know what? We turned on HD Radio at night on the AM and again received zero calls about us destroying nighttime AM reception with HD Radio.

“Where is the hue and cry that, according to this person, I should be hearing because I am killing all AM reception for hundreds of miles with my HD Radio AM nighttime signal? Real-world experience broadcasting HD Radio AM both during the day and at night has shown me that we have zero problems with it,” he continued in his e-mail.

“Really Paul, these anti-HD Radio AM folks have no experience with any aspect of broadcasting AM HD Radio and yet you continue to give them a national platform for their misguided and irrational raving. Does this make any sense? Is this providing a valuable service to the industry to let these ignorant folks loose to spew this stuff?

“And no I am not interested in debating these folks. These anti-HD Radio AM folks are completely incapable of any rational discussion on this topic. All you have to do to understand this is read their spewing to understand that they operate under the ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up’ motive.

“To them, all of us HD Radio broadcasters have ‘sold out’ and you would have a better chance of resolving the Middle East conflict than getting the anti-HD Radio AM group to have a rational discussion about it in light of those of us who actually broadcast it every single day with no complaints.

“Paul, it’s way past the time to let all of those folks who have no life other than to complain about AM HD Radio on the AM band to go back to their anti-HD Radio blogs, sip AM DX Kool-Aid, long for the return of wide-band AM, keep their candles lit under the picture of Leonard Kahn and make tin foil hats.

“I for one have had enough of them ‘gracing’ the back page of what I consider to be one of the best books in the industry.”

* * *

Here’s how I replied to the above e-mail:

“Thanks for taking the time to write about this topic of how we cover viewpoints about HD Radio. It’s a valid point of discussion.

“My policy is and has always been that it’s not up to me to start deciding that certain viewpoints are no longer relevant.

“Barring slander or downright misstatement of facts, I pretty much let people who care about the U.S. radio industry speak their minds in the opinion section of RW. Sometimes that can be unpleasant.

“When it comes to HD Radio, the views that we publish are, unfortunately, not held by just a few folks. And the fact that at least one big radio broadcast group recently turned off its AM IBOC at night, citing problems, suggests to me that RW is not ‘out on the fringe’ by covering this topic. (Which of course is not the same as RW endorsing the anti-IBOC views.)

“Interestingly, HD opponents have in the past criticized RW — not for giving them space, but for giving HD Radio a lot of what they consider ‘positive’ coverage.

“And I’ll say this also: If RW’s allowance of space to those views seems out of whack, perhaps HD Radio needs more of its fans to speak up on its behalf.

“Having said all of that, however, I’m most proud that RW publishes letters that criticize us; and I would like permission to print your email as a letter too. May we?”

I welcome your own thoughts on this discussion to [email protected].

* * *

On a separate but related note, I share the following excerpt from the newsletter of the engineering department of Crawford Broadcasting, written by its DOE Cris Alexander, who also contributes to Radio World:

“My position on the AM night digital issue has all along been one of cautious optimism,” Cris writes. “I never expected the massive amounts of interference that some were predicting because science simply does not support that hypothesis. But I would be naïve to think there would be no resulting interference. …

“What have folks been hearing out in the real world since the night of the ‘IBOCalypse’? All of the observations sent me thus far agree with my own, namely that the digital sidebands from the few stations currently transmitting in the digital mode at night are having no real impact on adjacent-channel stations.

“Here in Colorado, I have listened carefully to some of the Class A stations that boom in here at night that are transmitting digital signals,” he continued.

“You can, for the most part, forget about skywave digital service. At least in this part of the world, it ain’t happening. You might get the PAD scroll or just the station name/call sign, but no decoded digital audio.

“I have also listened carefully to stations on channels adjacent to these digital Class As. While in some cases I can hear a slight ‘hiss’ way down there in the atmospheric noise, in no case have I observed the adjacency’s signal degraded in any way by the Class A’s digital signal. Reports from around the company are saying the same thing.

“Admittedly this is a small sample, but I believe it is representative of what we will see across the board as night digital operation proliferates.”

Alexander also observed that “both KLZ and KLTT in Denver produce excellent night coverage with their digital signals. In my after-dark travels around Denver metro, I have not so far driven out of the digital coverage. I am hearing similar reports from other markets as well. And finally, we have had zero interference complaints to date from our digital night signals. I really didn’t expect any.

“So, is this the beginning of the end of all AM night coverage? Based on what I have seen so far, absolutely not. But we mustn’t assume that no problems so far mean no problems will occur in the future.

“Going forward, we will have to be ready and willing to make adjustments as specific situations demand. That’s clearly what the FCC has in mind. All the rhetoric aside, I would say we’re off to a good start.”

Cris Alexander and I think alike.