AM, Recording Spark IBOC Opinions - Radio World

AM, Recording Spark IBOC Opinions

This is the second in a series of articles summarizing public comments filed with the FCC in the IBOC proceeding.
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WASHINGTON This is the second in a series of articles summarizing public comments filed with the FCC in the IBOC proceeding.

Here, we excerpt a sampling of observations about AM nighttime digital, personal recording, multicasting and the transition from hybrid analog/digital to all-digital mode.

In joint comments, 44 state broadcaster associations recommended:

* "The commission should allow market forces to govern the adoption of digital audio broadcasting by the radio industry. No station should be required to adopt IBOC or other digital technology.

* "The commission should not impose additional DAB quality standards, such as high-definition digital audio broadcasting. Such artificial standards could meaningfully delay the transition period. The market can best determine the viability and demand for higher quality audio.

* "The commission should permit licensees to provide more than one digital bitstream ("multicasting") within the constraints of the IBOC technical standards. This would enhance program diversity. The commission should be flexible in its regulation of multicasting, at least in its early stages of development.

* "The commission should permit licensees to broker multicast bitstreams to unaffiliated entities and to other broadcasters. This will allow licensees to recoup some of the costs associated with the digital conversion, and to increase outlet diversity.

* "Extending interim authorization for IBOC AM nighttime broadcasts and streamlining the dual antenna application process will facilitate a more expedient transition to digital audio, and thus serve the public interest."

The Recording Artists' Coalition wrote:

"New technology such as peer-to-peer file sharing ('P2P') has spawned rampant piracy. As a result, the music industry is in a serious depression, adversely affecting almost every person working in the music industry. ...

"The P2P experience clearly shows that it is easy to predict, almost to a certainty, that if given the opportunity, millions and millions of music fans will acquire music without paying for it. ...

"DAB is not like traditional, analog radio. If fully implemented as expected, it will more closely resemble a P2P system than traditional radio.

"The potential for sophisticated interactivity makes DAB fundamentally a new format that will eventually allow users to access specific songs or songs by specific recording artists on a real time or delayed basis, and then store that music on a myriad of different machines like a computer or a hand-held device. The user will then be able to create an unlimited number of copies or to further distribute the music via the Internet or a wireless system with relative simplicity.

"The unauthorized P2P systems offer the same type of interactivity and possibility for abuse. DAB, however, also offers anonymity and simplicity. The combination will be toxic for the future of music.

"Recording artists have fared badly under the existing analog radio system. Using the faulty rationale that analog radio provides recording artists with free publicity, Congress has steadfastly refused to provide recording artists with a public performance right. When a song is played on radio, the songwriter receives a public performance royalty - the recording artist receives nothing. ...

"RAC is not opposed to DAB. DAB has potential to be a wonderful format.

"Rather, RAC is opposed to an emerging DAB business model and standard not providing revenue for the recording artist and not protecting the recording artist from the ravages of rampant piracy.

"The commission has the opportunity to afford copyright owners a reasonable and fair degree of content protection while preserving the existing expectations of listeners to record broadcast material for very limited purposes. ...

"(A)t a minimum, the commission should seriously consider adoption of a DAB transmission standard proscribing minimally intrusive rules affecting both the radio networks and equipment manufacturers.

"One minimally intrusive option could be to allow for encryption during transmission and imposition of an audio protection flag. If the technology progresses as expected, encryption and an APF will ultimately allow for the introduction of the 'buy button' - a viable, fair method of allowing users of DAB to keep the music they copy, but only if they pay."

Reunion Broadcasting LLC wrote:

"Reunion is the licensee of several AM stations and is actively involved in the expansion and development of AM facilities. ...

"Reunion supports the rapid introduction of spectrum-efficient digital broadcasting on the AM band. However, the introduction of hybrid analog/digital systems on this band during the nighttime should be permitted only pursuant to a showing that the hybrid facilities will not create additional interference to existing stations.

"Since the issuance of the commission's interim order in this matter, deployment of AM digital operation has been slow. Figures published by Ibiquity indicate that approximately 30 AM stations are operating with the digital hybrid system. ...

"Uncertainty regarding the real-world performance of the hybrid IBOC system within the commission's current allocation scheme and occupied bandwidth rules, together with the lack of nighttime operation, has chilled the deployment of AM digital systems.

"Part of the uncertainty stems from the attempt to apply commission rules developed for the stations transmitting an amplitude-modulated signal to transmission modes not in existence at the time the rules were written. In particular, the emission limits specified in 47 CFR 73.44 will yield unanticipated results if applied to any transmission method other than amplitude modulation. ...

"If it is determined that the adjacent-channel energy created by use of the hybrid analog/digital system will enter the night limit of a station operating on that adjacent channel, the station proposing digital operation should be required to reduce power in the digital sidebands until the signal fits within the existing protection requirements.

"Reunion believes this approach would permit the introduction of digital nighttime operation in an orderly fashion. The NAB has filed a proposal, which recommends that the commission permit nighttime digital operation for all stations currently authorized for nighttime broadcasts without prior commission authorization.

"The proposal also asks the commission to resolve cases of "unexpected interference" on a case-by-case basis. This 'do it now, fix it later' approach simply increases the uncertainty for each broadcaster seeking to move forward with digital broadcasting.

"It is questionable whether a broadcaster seeking to maximize its service to the public would invest the capital necessary to convert to a hybrid digital operation if the possibility exists that the operation might be limited or diminished because of interference given to adjacent channel stations. This is simply not an issue for which a 'trial and error' approach is appropriate. ...

"The NAB proposal and Ibiquity's AM Nighttime Compatibility Study indicate that interference can be expected outside of a station's Night Interference Free (NIF) limit. In practice, the usable nighttime signal of a station operating in the analog mode extends well beyond the NIF contour.

"Many stations, especially those licensed to suburban cities in a metropolitan area, have substantial portions of their nighttime audience outside of their NIF. ...

"To eliminate ... uncertainty, Reunion encourages the commission to adopt an interim policy permitting hybrid analog/digital operation upon a showing by the applicant that the proposed operation, when examined on the basis of the main channel and each adjacent-channel carrier, will not increase nighttime interference for either the main or adjacent channels."

XM Radio Inc. wrote:

"No action by the commission is warranted to prevent recording and Internet redistribution of musical recordings that are part of digital audio broadcasts. Concerns with recording of digital audio broadcasts are virtually identical to issues previously raised that resulted in the passage of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 ('AHRA').

"The requirements of the AHRA fully address any concerns regarding possible consumer recording of radio broadcasts and redistribution of those recordings. ...

"In the mid-1980s, electronics manufacturers introduced digital audio tape and digital audio recorders. At that time, the recording industry voiced concerns regarding DAT and DAR that are similar to the concerns expressed today, namely that 'the precision of the digital audio recording capabilities will result in reduced sales and royalties due to illegal 'bootleg' copying, as well as home copying by consumers.' The recording industry filed legal action against those electronics manufacturers and the tension between those industries delayed widespread introduction and adoption of that technology.

"The AHRA was the legislative compromise to the dispute between the recording and electronics industries which provided a new royalty stream for copyright owners, addressed copyright owners' content copy concerns, and ensured 'the right of consumers to make analog or digital audio recordings of copyrighted music for their private, noncommercial use.' The AHRA imposes both a financial and technical obligation on manufacturers or importers that distribute 'digital audio recording devices.'

"Any party that manufactures or imports a digital audio recording device and/or digital audio recording media must file required reports with the Copyright Office and pay the requisite royalty. In addition, devices must incorporate a serial copy management system to block second-generation copying of recordings.

"In the NOI, the commission has not formally proposed rules to address copying concerns relating to digital audio broadcasting. In its Oct. 2, 2003 letter to the commission, the Recording Industry Association of America appears to advocate prohibiting the type of activity that the AHRA is designed to protect, namely the ability of consumers to make recordings of copyrighted music for their own use.

"The RIAA asserts that because of the advanced features available on digital receivers, consumers will be able to copy 'the entire repertoire of an individual artist' and transform digital broadcasts into 'a jukebox with an unlimited library of songs' in ways that 'ignore the intellectual property interests' of copyright owners. However, this type of recording activity was specifically addressed and authorized by the AHRA.

"The payment of royalties under the AHRA is triggered, in part, upon the manufacture or importation of a 'digital audio recording device.' ...

"In the section-by-section analysis of the AHRA, the Senate notes that a 'digital audio copied recording' includes 'a digital audio recording made from a commercially released compact disc or ... from a radio broadcast of a commercially released compact disc.' Thus, under current law, it is clear that consumers can record from radio broadcasts, organize those recording and store them to create their own "jukebox" to be played again and again.

"The fact that new models of receivers streamline this process is immaterial. Moreover, there is no basis for the assertion that digital broadcasts and new receivers will 'deprive (recording labels and artists) of legitimate compensation.'

"Copyright owners will be compensated in accordance with an established royalty scheme and second generation copies will be prohibited under the serial copy management system. Imposition of any additional content controls would essentially unravel the compromise reached by the recording and electronics industries that resulted in the passage of the AHRA."

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