There are a lot of unknowns at this point in the Citadel AM IBOC nighttime situation, but one thing is clear: Something is going on and the company wants to work with Ibiquity to get to the bottom of it.
Citadel Director of Corporate Engineering Martin Stabbert confirms that his company is taking a step back and stopped operating AM IBOC at night on 10 stations as of Oct. 1. The stations still broadcast in digital during the day. Of its 66 AMs, 16 have converted and four more are in-process. Citadel’s conversion efforts continue.
An excerpt from his memo to staff reads: “In response to the lackluster performance, the limited benefit and various reports of significant interference, Citadel is suspending nighttime AM HD operations at this time. Please reinstate your previous procedures for daytime-only HD operation as soon as possible.”
The company has received interference complaints from listeners and stations on adjacent channels, the latter from both Citadel- and non-Citadel-owned stations in and outside the markets. (He tells me the calls from “non-Citadel-owned” stations were cordial.)
Most of the complaints center around 50 kW Class As, he said, although internally, Citadel has observed effects from lower-powered stations on adjacents at night.
With this action, Citadel, a member of the HD Digital Radio Alliance, becomes the first radio group to, in effect, become a public test bed for other radio groups. (I feel other groups may have already done so privately.) Additionally, Stabbert said other groups may want to take part in the Citadel tests. All of this is still in play.
Stabbert stressed that Citadel’s action is not a criticism of Ibiquity nor of its technology. The move, however, comes at a time when the impact of AM digital at night, which only recently was OK’d by the FCC, is being closely scrutinized by those who believe it could fundamentally damage the band.
Ibiquity Digital said it has received few complaints about interference, that the “vast majority” of feedback it’s received about AM nighttime has been positive.
“We understand Citadel’s caution and are working with them to understand what they are experiencing and to address their concerns,” said a spokeswoman.
The move came to light Monday in an internal memo that was leaked to the media.
I suspect this isn’t the first such instance for any of the groups, the only difference being that others would have had a chance to work out the issue privately while Citadel had its privacy ripped away like a Band-Aid. While I’m sure it’s not happy about that, it’s beneficial to shine a light on the issue, which as you know is incendiary in some industry circles. I hope the resolution of this is just as public.
Some IBOC opponents are particularly happy with this news. We received a note from one person noting the “celebrating and drinking toasts on the MW lists.”