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Opinion: The IBOC Fee Waiver

The big news for digital fans at the NAB Radio Show last month was that Ibiquity has bowed to reality and offered an audio licensing fee waiver to owners that place orders for HD Radio/IBOC transmission equipment by the end of this year.

The big news for digital fans at the NAB Radio Show last month was that Ibiquity has bowed to reality and offered an audio licensing fee waiver to owners that place orders for HD Radio/IBOC transmission equipment by the end of this year. Radio One was the first to make a public commitment under this “pioneer” program; others reportedly were lining up.

The waiver is good news, but it comes too soon and ends too quickly for many broadcasters.

Any rollout plan needs to benefit all radio stations. Just as we don’t need an IBOC solution that works only for AM in the daytime, we also don’t need a fee waiver that ends before small- and medium-market broadcasters and college stations can take advantage of it.

For these stations, a few thousand dollars in fees (not to mention the actual cost of the hardware) is a really big deal. Many must go through purchasing departments or committee processes. They can’t snap their fingers and place an IBOC order.

Offering a waiver now, when the biggest groups are the ones that can afford to commit, only advances the perception held by some critics that Ibiquity tilts toward its investor partners at the expense of smaller non-investors.

Further, this waiver asks managers to commit to ordering equipment before the FCC has even indicated whether it approves of the concept, and in what form. We expect that the commission will give its approval to IBOC, perhaps even this month; but if we were running a station, we’d be hesitant to commit funding to a system not yet approved.

The fee waiver is a big step in the right direction, and we commend Ibiquity for it. Now extend the waiver window to six months after an FCC endorsement. Then meet with small- and medium-market broadcasters to develop an equivalent waiver that will help them later, when they can afford the conversion.

Radio World

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