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We Need Better Tech Solutions

It’s easy to blame stations; but we’re working in a convoluted marketplace

Radio World’s coverage of the fall Radio Show in the Oct. 24 issue touched on complaints about HD Radio.

I might add another: The HD signal sounds like so much pink noise on the analog dial as to make stations unlistenable.

I was attempting to listen to WABC(AM) in New York one Friday evening while driving here in northern Michigan, but the digital signatures of WBBM(AM) and WJR(AM) were making it nigh to impossible. If it wasn’t one digital signature drifting in, it was the other or both, mixing on the main analog carrier of WABC and wiping out the analog audio.

IBOC is no solution as long as the band remains analog. Either go 100 percent digital on a different portion of the dial, or remain analog. Don’t try to do both. It’s ruining the power that can be dedicated to digital and diminishing the audio quality of AM modulation on the analog portion, producing very poor frequency response and coverage area.

‘Bugs and all’

Radio World’s coverage also mentioned a call for broadcasters to step up their RDS ability in order for Detroit automakers to take radio seriously. Really?

A lot of stations don’t do RBDS because setting it up is a nightmare. STL manufacturers share blame for their secret information about how to wire the serial cables for STLs to make it work. And how about software? As soon as a developer moves on to a new version of automation software, older software solutions go ignored — bugs and all.

Who has an all-inclusive solution for RBDS? You have to piece it together from your automation provider, STL manufacturer, RBDS box manufacturer, all with sparse information, because no one knows how the other guy’s box or software will work with their code, RDS text or any number of hardware or software variables.

We were one of the first stations in Northeast Michigan to implement RDS from a “song title,” “artist” and “commercial name, slogan and phone number info” perspective. We had to do it with flawed software that couldn’t run campaigns without commandeering the RDS output entirely, even though the software writers promised it would. The software stops unexpectedly and needs to be restarted often.

Satellite program providers, too, either are not supporting RBDS wholeheartedly or are flat-out refusing to do it altogether. So how can we have an integrated RBDS product on the air when the only source for RBDS data is what comes out of our automation system?

Now radio makers are complaining that radio isn’t doing enough?

Until an integrated approach is brought to bear on processor makers, exciter manufacturers and even those who manufacture RDS boxes, how can radio manufacturers and automakers demand anything of the radio market?

We in radio are trying to implement this stuff; we really are. But it’s tough to do it with everything so convoluted. The market needs solutions for the broadcaster before anyone can accuse us of not “stepping up” to do our part.

Considering what we have to work with, we’re doing a pretty damned good job.

Marvin Waltherischief engineer at Carroll Broadcasting in Tawas City, Mich.

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