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From the Editor: Charlie Morgan’s Take on HD Radio Standards

When an engineer as respected as Charlie Morgan takes exception to something I write in print, I pay attention...Morgan was responding to my June 18 comments here about the National Radio Systems Committee standards process.

When an engineer as respected as Charlie Morgan takes exception to something I write in print, I pay attention.

Morgan was responding to my June 18 comments here about the National Radio Systems Committee standards process. I wrote that the process is far too secretive and not well-defined. I also commented about how the NRSC has handled the question of HD Radio to date; and I called for the group to open its doors to journalists.


For the uninitiated: The NRSC is sponsored jointly by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Electronics Association; thus it brings together the people who transmit broadcast signals and the people who make it possible for use to hear those signals, i.e. the receiver manufacturers. Its purpose is to study and make recommendations for technical standards that relate to radio broadcasting and the reception of radio broadcast signals.

Charles Morgan is the chairman of the NRSC and vice president of Susquehanna Radio Corp. I share his response with you in detail.

“Paul, I just read your June 18 editorial. You make some very good points, but some of your comments could be misleading to readers who are not familiar with the workings of the NRSC,” Morgan wrote.

“First, we do not operate in secrecy or behind closed doors. Membership to the NRSC and its meetings are open to anyone with an interest in the radio transmission industry. Application for membership and meeting notices are available on our Web site at All NRSC, subcommittee and working group meetings are an open forum, and all interested parties are welcome. Unfortunately, the press and only the press are excluded from attending these meetings.

“My second point concerns your comments on changing algorithms without retesting,” he continued.

“What really occurred is that when USADR and Lucent merged into Ibiquity, they informed the NRSC and the industry that they intended to change their algorithm from AAC to PAC. Since they were not ready to make this change and no one wanted to delay the testing, the NRSC agreed with the Ibiquity proposal to move forward with the testing using AAC and at a later date perform additional audio quality testing using the PAC algorithm for both their AM and FM systems.

“The need for future testing in the event of an algorithm change is well-documented in both the AM and FM evaluation reports in Section 1.2 Future Work.”

‘Great expectations’

“This is exactly what happened,” Morgan continued.

“The NRSC recommendation for both the AM and FM systems were based on testing using AAC. In mid-2002, similar testing of the audio quality were performed on the FM system using the PAC algorithm at 96 kb, and a report stating that these results were consistent with our earlier evaluation and recommendations was submitted to the FCC.

“The AM system was another matter. Similar audio quality tests were performed using the PAC algorithm on the AM system. At a Feb. 6, 2003 meeting, the results of the PAC testing were presented to the evaluation working group, and it was quickly determined that the results obtained with the new PAC algorithm were not satisfactory.

“Ibiquity recognized the problem and decided to withdraw their submission rather than risk having it rejected. Ibiquity stated that they were making improvements to the PAC algorithm and would submit it again at a later date,” Morgan wrote.

“Paul, as you can see, we did not allow Ibiquity to change algorithm without retesting. The problem is that PAC did not provide the same quality as previously observed using AAC for the lower bit rates required for the AM system.

“Ibiquity’s contention that the same algorithm must be used for both the AM and FM system and the concern that they were moving forward with chip production utilizing PAC were the main reasons for the pause in NRSC standard-setting activity.

“It is important to note that the NRSC, and I personally, have great expectations for the Ibiquity system and fully expect them to resolve this algorithm problem.”

Access for all

I’m pleased to stand corrected on the details of the standards process. I continue to disagree with my friends and colleagues on NRSC over the question of media access; and I think the confusion about what exactly happens in those meetings reinforces my point.

To say that the group is open to all but the press ignores the fundamental role that responsible media play in this situation.

The truth is that most people in our industry do not have the time nor the means to participate in the NRSC. Thousands of interested parties would like to know about the NRSC and its important work. They should be able to learn about it not just from a rare press release or thick report, but from disinterested third parties – not just Radio World, but any responsible journalistic publication.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787, “I am persuaded that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves.

“The people are the only censors of their governors,” Jefferson continued, “and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty.

“The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people.”

He was talking about governance, but I believe his argument holds in the case of our industry’s standards body as well.