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Who’s Afraid of DRM?

DRM for mediumwave has been tested and documented for two decades

The author of this commentary is chair of Digital Radio Mondiale.

As widely expected and now reported, the FCC has adopted rules to allow AM radio stations in the United States to broadcast an all-digital signal using the HD Radio in-band on-channel MA3 mode.

At the same time, as a small nod to those who either object or would like FCC to consider DRM as well, the commission noted the interest in “alternative technologies,” aka DRM.

All the arguments in favor of DRM — audio quality, coverage, flexibility, extra services, lack of interference or link to one single proprietary company and the extensive proven record — were not enough for the FCC. They considered that looking at other technologies was beyond the scope of the 11-month consultation.

Some might argue that this was more about endorsing one technology rather than examining in detail what can be done to save AM proper. A fuller DRM dossier was required with laboratory and field results, and this request seems reasonable.

There is one snag though: DRM for mediumwave has been tested and documented about two decades ago. It has been recommended by ITU in 2005 and all the tests carried out all over the world are available openly and freely for anyone to see.

Moreover, 35 stations, soon to be increased to 41, in India, are on the air every single day Their coverage is about 800 million people, and this is slightly more than the one and a half station proving the advantages of MA-3.

The DRM Consortium can monitor every second of these live transmissions every day and this can be checked by FCC whenever they want.

These are facts and not more assertions by DRM proponents. A U.S. lab and real test of DRM in the country, as mentioned by the FCC, would be useful but would not change the laws of physics. With FCC support and that of North American broadcasters and broadcasting bodies this could be easily achieved.

In conclusion we feel that, for now, FCC has taken a positive step and sent a good sign about mediumwave revitalization and not only in the U.S.

We know that confrontation has never helped any technology assert itself. Cooperation and fairness have. And DRM is ready to prove its advantages using the opportunity offered by the FCC in their statement.

The DRM consortium remains ready to assist bodies in the USA keen to adopt the system that is finding success in many other countries around the world. This will allow radio on the AM bands to thrive in the digital age using an open competitive system.