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A Cornucopia of News From NABA Meeting

Action on FM translators for AM stations said to be pending

I picked up some news while attending the North American Broadcasters Association conference here in the Washington area. The group has engineering, legal and regulatory members representing Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Digital radio in Canada is stalled, for one thing.

Despite a promising start, “To my chagrin, the industry continues to rely on analog. There’s no plan in place to adopt digital radio in Canada,” said Michel Arpin of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. The problem mostly comes down to money, he said; stations don’t have a lot of money to invest in new gear. Radio Shack Canada told him they still have DAB receivers gathering dust on their shelves.

IBOC, too, is languishing in Canada, Arpin said; as stations take a wait-and-see approach to how the rollout goes here. IBOC tests in Canada, for interference purposes, were “inconclusive,” he said.

Switching to other radio topics: NAB’s Lynn Claudy was at the NABA event and discussed efforts to get FM radio chips in receivers and other portable devices.

Citing statistics from the National Science Foundation, as a percentage of annual revenue, Claudy said, the computer industry spent 14.3% on R&D in 2006. That compares to radio and television broadcasting combined, which spent about 0.2% on R&D in the same period. That’s why NAB came up with its FASTROAD — Flexible Advanced Services for Television & Radio On All Devices — program, now in its third year.

I also heard a rumor from a source close to the commission that the proposal to allow AMs to use FM translators in certain cases is about to come out of, and presumably, be approved by, the agency.

Some deals between FM translator owners and some AM station owners have been made since 2007, when the FCC began accepting and processing requests for special temporary authority to allow AM stations to rebroadcast their signals on FM translators.

Also expected “relatively soon” from the commission are the details of how Sirius and XM should parcel out their minority set-aside channels, according to this source. The FCC recently extended the deadline for the satcasters to lease some six channels on each platform to June 29, but has not yet released guidelines explaining how the process would work.

And did you know the National Radio Systems Committee is in its 30th year? NRSC Chairman Milford Smith said so. The group first adopted standards in 1988 and has reports going back to 1981 on its Web site, with work presumably begun two years prior to that.

The setting for the NABA gathering was the historic Willard Hotel, where the term “lobbyists” is thought to have originated. Ulysses S. Grant was president; according to the hotel’s history, after a long day in the oval office, Grant would often find respite in the lobby of the Willard. As word got out, many would-be power brokers would approach him on individual causes. Grant is said to have called these people “lobbyists.”