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Digital Radio Update – July 23, 2008

Digital Radio Update – July 23, 2008

Jul 23, 2008 9:51 AM, By Mark Krieger



AP: FCC’s Adelstein Set to Tip Sat Merger Vote
The Associated Press reports that Democrat FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has come on board with fellow Commissioner Robert McDowell and Chairman Kevin Martin (both Republicans) in supporting the proposed buyout of XM by rival Sirius Satellite Radio. The AP piece, which appeared in a number of major newspapers, called Adelstein’s position surprising, given his past record of disdain for big media’s expanding waistline. The revelation flies in the face of conventional thinking that the Commission would split along partisan lines over the merger, now on the FCC’s docket for an exasperating 17 months.

But Adelstein’s support for the merger carries a hefty price tag for Sirius. Among conditions, he reportedly wants to impose on the emerging satellite radio provider is a six-year rate cap, twice that previously offered by Sirius, along with a whopping 25 percent of channel capacity set-asides for minority and independent non-commercial programming. That stipulation would be a particularly bitter pill for Sirius CEO Mel Karmazan, who had previously offered only 24 channels out of a combined total of 300 channels currently offered by the two providers.

Adelstein also supports imposing a requirement that new interoperable satellite receivers include terrestrial radio with HD Radio decoding capability, a concept originally advanced by Ibiquity, roundly supported by broadcasters, the NAB, and an assortment of House and Senate Democrats. But that proposal has come under fire from electronics manufacturers, such as Pioneer, and from automaker giants GM and Toyota, who recently filed comments with the FCC calling such a requirement unprecedented, unnecessary, and unreasonable.

In any case, some veteran FCC observers say the drama surrounding the merger isn’t over yet. While a pro vote on the merger by Adelstein would secure a majority Commission approval, Sirius’ willingness to concede to his laundry list of demands seems doubtful. Without significant compromise by both players, all eyes will likely shift back to Republican Commissioner Deborah Taylor-Tate, who had previously been seen as the key partisan swing vote.

A scheduled vote on the merger has yet to appear on the FCC Commissioners meeting agenda.


World Space Rebrands as Credit Crunch Tightens
The international satellite radio provider formerly known as World Space underwent an unexpected makeover last week by adding the numeral 1 to its name and reimaging its website. The change comes at a critical moment for the beleaguered satellite broadcaster, which recently lost two prestigious board members and is again seeking for repayment extensions on about $36 million in short-term debt notes.

According to a report by Chris Forrester in Rapid TV News online, the company has taken some draconian measures, such as withholding upper management payroll, to conserve what’s left of its operating capital. 1 World Space CEO Noah Samara is also quoted in that article as telling staff members that fresh investors and good execution are all that’s needed to roll out its pending European satellite services, beginning in Italy, where the company has already been granted all necessary licenses.

1 World Space’s quest for additional investors has been an ongoing saga in recent years, with company stock price sliding substantially since the company’s IPO in 2004. The company needs a significant cash infusion to launch its AfriStar 2 satellite and build out a terrestrial repeater in Italy; but the company’s debt load, in combination with the international credit crunch, appear to be keeping prospective investors at bay thus far.

IBOC Across America

IBOC by State: Puerto Rico
Ibiquity has a list of stations with licensed HD Radio technology and notes those on the air now. IBOC by state looks at various states and lists the stations making the transition. There are five stations in the Isle of Enchantment broadcasting five HD Radio channels.

MarketStationHD1 FormatHD2 FormatOwner Puerto RicoWPRM-FM 98.5Tropical-Arso Radio Group Puerto RicoWMEG-FM 106.9CHR/Spanish-Spanish Broadcasting System Puerto RicoWXYX-FMSpanish AC/Various Hits-RAAD Broadcasting Puerto RicoWRTU-FM 89.7Spanish/Variety-University of Puerto Rico Puerto RicoWRUO-FM 88.3Spanish/Variety-University of Puerto Rico

Eye on IBOC

Australian DAB+ Build-out Vendors Named
Australia’s commitment to a national implementation of DAB+ broadcasting moved another step closer to realization, as winning infrastructure vendor bids were announced on July 9 by Commercial Radio Australia, one of the project’s principals. The new system is currently slated to provide 42 existing services along with up to 50 new digital channels in the country’s five largest cities, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

According to a Commercial Radio Australia news release, high-powered transmitters for the system multiplexes will be provided by Rohde & Schwarz, while DAB+ audio encoders, data servers and multiplexers will be provisioned by Factum. System integration and pre-build services will be handled by The United Group with project management support by Kordia.

The Australian DAB+ initiative represents a joint venture between government agencies and the countries commercial broadcast interests. Systems installations are slated for the last quarter of 2008, with a timetable calling for the first stations to air on Jan. 1, 2009.

HD Radio Terminology

The New Language of Digital Radio
hybrid waveform: The AM and FM IBOC signals that consist of the host analog signal and an IBOC digital signal. It is considered hybrid because it mixes analog and digital transmission in the same channel. For AM IBOC, it is the transmitted waveform composed of the analog AM signal, plus digitally modulated primary, secondary and tertiary OFDM subcarriers. For FM IBOC it is the transmitted waveform composed of the host analog FM signal, plus digitally modulated Primary Main OFDM subcarriers. Also, the FM IBOC Extended Hybrid Waveform may be distinguished from Hybrid Waveform, although for convenience the term Hybrid Waveform is often used in a context that includes the Extended Hybrid Waveform as a subset. All forms of Hybrid Waveform are distinguished from the All-Digital Waveform.

in-band adjacent-channel: Technology never fully developed that employed digital transmission in the AM and FM broadcast bands in which the digital signals are asymmetrical to the analog host and consequently may not be compatible with the existing analog emissions and frequency assignments and may fail to provide a digital channel for every analog host.

in-band on-channel: Technology that employs digital transmission in the AM and FM broadcast bands in which the digital transmissions are symmetrical about the center frequency of the host analog signal; they maintain compatibility with reception of existing analog emissions and frequency assignments; and have an implicit one-for-one correspondence between digital signal and analog host.


Coby HDR-650

HD Radio Goes Personal…Almost
The long wait for a portable HD radio is over – but there’s a catch. The new HDR-700 Portable HD Radio System from Coby is certainly the first cordless HD Radio receiver. Yet its paving brick size and weight may mean that fitness buffs will have to dream about training with their strap-on radio pumping out commercial-free multicast tunes a bit longer.

Even so, with a splash-proof case and integrated rechargeable battery, the small footprint HDR-700 does offer an interesting mix of features that make it stand out from the crowd of HD Radio tabletops now on the market. A 3.5mm line input allows the user to attach their own audio source devices, while an SD memory card slot permits the unit to read and play MP3 files. A stereo headphone mini-jack is also provided, but alas, the built-in full-range speaker outputs in mono only. Remote control, AM loop antenna and an ac adapter are also included.

Coby has also introduced its HDR-650, a low-cost component HD Radio tuner with RCA style line outputs for those wanting to upgrade their home audio systems.

McIntosh Adds HD Tuner Module
Legendary audiophile equipment purveyor McIntosh has spiced up its high-end FM receiver line with the addition of its Model TM-2 AM/FM HD Radio tuner module. The device is designed to mate directly to the company’s MA6600 integrated amplifier, transforming it into the first stereo receiver in the McIntosh line to be offered in the last 15 years.

The TM2 boasts a variety of functionality, including a blend feature that allows users to select auto switching, digital- or analog-only reception modes. Also included are multicast reception, up to nine AM and nine FM presets, and display of signal strength, station, RDS and RBDS data via the connected MA6600’s front-panel, along with remote control capability. An external dual-differential AM antenna is provided as well.