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HD Radio On the Side

Asymmetrical approach, audio/images are focus of interest

One in a series of post-convention stories wrapping up the recent Radio Show in Washington.

WASHINGTON — The next-generation Insignia HD, the first HD Radio tuner to include new features such as images, live pause and data bookmarking, is now available and iBiquity Digital expects more HD portables as well as HD auto receivers that incorporate the new features to come out in 2011.

The technology company debuted Artist Experience, formerly called Album Art, at the Radio Show convention. Now this feature includes several kinds of images, hence the name change. Also, a new HD Radio ad campaign is underway; and iBiquity added another automaker, Subaru, to its OEM partners. Subaru will offer the digital radio receivers for the first time when it launches HD Radio receivers as part of a premium radio package in the 2011 Forrester, due in dealerships this month. The HD Radio receivers will include iTunes Tagging capability.

To spur facility conversions in medium and small markets, iBiquity and Citadel Media introduced a barter program; there was much talk about that program at the show. On the engineering front, the first station began using asymmetrical sideband transmission; and the National Radio Systems Committee adopted what members say is an easy way for engineers and IBOC transmission gear manufacturers to determine digital sideband power level.

Here are some of the more significant HD Radio stories coming out of the show.

New Insignia HD Debuts Images, Pause

The FM-only Insignia HD Radio portable, which includes images and live pause that can cache up to 15 minutes of live radio, was due to arrive in Best Buy stores in late October.

The Insignia NS-HD02 lists at $69, some $20 more than the previous model. The unit has eight hours of battery life and a 2.5-inch by three-inch LCD color touchscreen, larger than the 1.5-inch dimension of its predecessor.

The larger screen will show off images iBiquity is calling the Artist Experience. This can consist of content such as album art, candid artist photos, station branding and logos, weather or news as well as advertising art.

“Consumers now expect to see album covers when they’re listening to music,” President/CEO Bob Struble told Radio World. “We need to bring the industry into the 21st century and deliver on those expectations.”

Advertiser art in particular can make radio ads more “sticky” and responsive, potentially leading to more revenue for stations, he said. For example, someone listening to an ad for their local Ford dealership might see an image of the new Ford Mustang on their HD Radio display.

Stations can charge more for spots that include some visual call to action, said Director of U.S. Broadcast Sales Rick Greenhut. Or those ads with a visual element can be part of a digital bundle that includes a Web banner ad and on-air mentions.

Stations in 10 to 20 markets were expected to transmit the images in the data portion of their HD Radio signal by the time the Insignia NS-HD02 was released. Multiple stations in each of those markets will support the feature, with more markets added in the future.

The images can be synchronized to the audio but they must be transmitted 30 seconds or more in advance of that particular audio, so that the receiver can store them for viewing. Once viewed, the images are purged to make room for future downloads.

Senior Vice President, Broadcast Programs and Advanced Services Joe D’Angelo told Radio World the company is working with Gracenote so that broadcasters can secure licenses for the album art. Sony-owned Gracenote maintains and licenses a database of music and video metadata such as liner notes and album art.

Synching the audio to the images is the big challenge, said D’Angelo, and iBiquity is working with automation vendors to be able to do that.

Speaking at iBiquity’s HD Radio session, Ashruf El-Dinary, vice president of commercial applications, said the visual images will make the receiver experience dynamic.

“When you first tune to a station you’ll see a logo. Once a song starts playing then a reloaded image will come up on the receiver — or a commercial image would be displayed. The user will always get an image first.”

Live pause allows the digital audio on the main channel or a multicast channel to pause for up to 15 minutes. Bookmarking is similar to tagging and allows the listener to store music information within the receiver to retrieve later.

Nautel displayed this sign about WAMU using asymmetrical sideband transmission using Nautel’s HD PowerBoost. Photo by Leslie Stimson WAMU Uses Asymmetrical Sidebands

Lots of notice buzz centered around American University licensee WAMU(FM) in Washington, the first station to transmit its HD Radio signal implementing asymmetrical sidebands to accommodate elevated carriers.

WAMU is believed to be the first station using asymmetrical sidebands and began this type of transmission right before the show.

IBOC proponents believe an approach using unequal HD Radio sidebands will help maximize coverage for stations that cannot implement a full digital power increase on both sidebands.

WAMU has an experimental authorization from the FCC for its asymmetrical sideband trial. WAMU Engineering Director John Holt told Radio World the station’s lower sideband is operating at –14 dBc and the upper sideband power level is –10 dBc. The station is using an NV40 transmitter.

Nautel says the trial shows that its software maximizes digital coverage while avoiding interference to the station’s own analog signal and those of neighbor stations. Nautel demoed this PowerBoost at the show. As part of the NPR Labs engineering study, prepared to determine WAMU’s options for IBOC sideband power, NPR Labs John Kean wrote: “The ITM (Longley-Rice) overlay supports a request for the maximum –13 dBc sideband power on the upper sideband on a long-term basis; the technical showing does not support maximum power on the lower sideband (–13 dBc, for a total of –10 dBc in combination with the upper sideband). However, this low-channel station will not be on the air for some time, permitting up to –10 dBc symmetrical power in the interim.”

Permission for Unequal Sidebands Could Become Routine

The FCC is watching how the industry handles FM HD asymmetrical sideband trials with interest.

If the data behind the trials supports it, permission to use asymmetrical sideband transmission could become more routine.

Proponents see asymmetrical sideband HD transmission as a way for more stations to accomplish an FM digital power increase while protecting a neighbor station at the same time from possible interference to its analog signal. Some 150 stations transmitting their digital signal on symmetrical sidebands have implemented a digital power increase.

During a regulatory session, Greater Media VP Radio Engineering Milford Smith said his company has applied for an STA to operate an HD Radio station in Boston using asymmetrical sideband transmission. Stations need an STA from the commission because the FM power increase approved earlier this year is only for IBOC transmission using symmetrical sidebands.

FCC Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle displays his Insignia HD receiver during a panel discussion regarding the availability and affordability of HD Radio receivers. He noted that after seeing a promotional brochure that included a “special broadcaster” offer of $36 per unit at the 2010 NAB Show, he decided to offer Media Bureau staff and others at the commission the opportunity to buy one at the promotional price. He coordinated the purchase of about 40 units from Best Buy. No public funds were used; users paid for their devices. Doyle told Radio World he thought it would be an inexpensive way to introduce to HD Radio to potential first adopters and policy makers. Photo by Jim Peck FCC Audio Division Chef Peter Doyle said the commission would like to see more data on asymmetrical sideband transmission. “We’re interested in test results.”

Once the agency sees what it needs to make a decision, the agency is prepared to make digital asymmetrical sideband transmission routine with a notification process, said Doyle.

IBiquity SVP/General Counsel Al Shuldiner said during a technical session that the technology developer is conducting internal tests on asymmetrical sideband transmission and also on digital boosters; it hopes to have results to the FCC by the end of the year.

No FM HD Interference Complaints Before the FCC

In the regulatory session, FCC Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle said the commission has no complaints before it regarding FM HD interference as a result of the power increases.

Without mentioning the call letters or the specifics involved, he referenced the complaint from KATY(FM), Idyllwild, Calif. about the HD signal from KRTH(FM), Los Angeles, saying this type of complaint hasn’t met the commission’s criteria, which only apply to those FMs that have implemented the power increase.

That case, he said, involves a claim of interference from a “superpower” Class B under the original power levels for IBOC. Complicating the issue is that the stations are short-spaced, as we’ve reported.

To clarify, Doyle said the FCC’s interference complaint procedures set out at the time of the power increase approval earlier this year are in fact intended only in cases of FMs that have implemented a digital power increase. There are no similar complaint procedures for stations operating at the original 1 percent of their allowed digital power, according to Doyle. Regular interference complaint procedures apply for those.

The AM IBOC interference remediation procedures predate the FM digital power increase and interference remediation procedures by several years. They were put in place in the First Report and Order in 2002 and incorporated into the Rules as Section 73.404(b) in the Second Report and Order in 2007.

Authorized Digital Power Now Easier to Determine

The National Radio Systems Committee adopted a new guideline aimed at giving engineers an easy way to determine the total digital sideband power level for their stations when transmitting HD Radio signals.

The NRSC is a technical standards-setting body co-sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Electronics Association. Using a root-mean-square power meter, engineers can use the guideline to determine an FM IBOC station’s authorized total digital sideband power level, whether they’re transmitting using symmetrical or asymmetrical sidebands, NRSC Chairman Milford Smith told Radio World.

The guideline is meant to help those responsible for or involved with FM IBOC facility design, operation and compliance monitoring. Smith called it a “useful tool for those charged with implementing IBOC correctly.”

The NRSC designed a companion Web-based total digital signal power calculator tool with the help of Cavell, Mertz & Associates Inc.

The Digital Radio Broadcasting Subcommittee of the NRSC adopted NRSC-G202, FM IBOC Total Digital Sideband Power for Various Configurations; the guideline is now final.

Andy Laird, vice president and chief technology officer, Journal Broadcast Group, co-chairs the subcommittee with Mike Bergman, vice president of new digital technologies, Kenwood USA. The subcommittee’s IBOC Standards Development Working Group, chaired by Dom Bordonaro, chief engineer, Cox Broadcasting’s Connecticut cluster, developed the guideline. While the web-based calculator had been posted, the guideline had yet to be posted at as of mid-October.

Let’s Barter for HD, Shall We?

IBiquity officials said they’ve received interest from several stations about a new barter deal between the technology developer and Citadel Media. It is aimed at helping radio owners convert to HD Radio or upgrade IBOC gear without a cash outlay.

Radio group owner Citadel Broadcasting, which owns about 240 stations and is part of the HD Radio Alliance, is the parent company of content distributor Citadel Media, which claims some 4,000 affiliates for content like Rick Dees, ESPN Radio and Michael Baisden. It incorporates much of what used to be the ABC Radio Networks. The arrangement is open to all radio owners.

Under the plan, stations would provide on-air avails to Citadel Media, which in turn would pay for the user’s HD Radio licensing fees and equipment from Broadcast Electronics, Continental, Harris or Nautel.

IBiquity Director of U.S. Broadcast Sales Rick Greenhut said deals between stations or clusters and Citadel Media can be structured in several ways.

“The station doesn’t write a check. It runs commercials. We’ve taken barter to the next step.” In some cases, a station may choose to use a finance company to pay the equipment supplier so an HD Radio transmitter can be built and shipped quickly.

As long as the ads air, Citadel will pay the equipment manufacturers and iBiquity the necessary hardware and licensing costs to convert or upgrade the stations involved, even if they’re not the stations where the ads aired. Citadel Media handles the paperwork necessary for the ad agencies to prove the spots aired per the contract.

Greenhut said the arrangement should be a boon for any broadcast business that’s short on cash and has a lot of spot availability. The typical one-time iBiquity licensing is now about $11,000, he said.

Receiver Penetration Concerns Transmitter Manufacturers

Several transmitter manufacturers said during a technical panel that getting more HD Radio receivers into cars as standard equipment is the key to the success of HD Radio.

But even if the radio industry were to pay for that to happen quickly, iBiquity says car makers just can’t move that fast because of their design process.

Harris VP of Transmission Research and Technology Geoff Mendenhall said he’s shopping for a new car and wants one with an HD Radio receiver in the dash. “It’s hard to find one with an HD Radio in it,” he said, adding he’d rather not have to purchase an aftermarket HD Radio and have it installed.

Satellite radio is prevalent in new cars, he observed. “The point is there’s a business model there that satellite people had years ago to [their] radios in cars; it has to do with subsidies and revenue-sharing.” He added: “Broadcasters need to take a hard look at this. That’s what we need for HD Radio. But, what does it take and what incentives are required for auto manufacturers to put an HD Radio in every car?”

Broadcast Electronics VP Sales Tim Bealor said it’s hard for stations to go all-digital without more receivers in the market and without a business model that works for stations to get revenue. “We will be in hybrid mode until we get [more] receiver penetration in cars.”

At another technical session, Radio World asked iBiquity officials about whether it has pushed its radio investor groups to offer more than unsold ad inventory — as in real cash — as incentive for automakers to speed up HD Radio receiver introduction into the dash.

IBiquity SVP Marketing Stephen Baldacci said “Broadcasters won’t subsidize the radios. That’s not going to happen.”

What would help, he said, is “clarity from on-air DJs about what consumers need to do to get an HD Radio,” just as stations have been driving people to their website.

Alliance stations need to air the HD spots and iBiquity spends a lot of time training consumer electronics salespeople about the products, he said.

COO Jeff Jury said even if broadcasters said they’d give a hypothetical amount of dollars in a year to car companies, it wouldn’t make a difference because automakers can’t get things done that fast.

“Most automakers want to know whether broadcasters are serious about HD Radio,” he said. “Their big fear is returns. As long as HD Radio sounds good,” automakers will accelerate deployment, he said.

It takes three to four years to get onto a car platform, said Jury. The tech developer hopes that within about two to three years, the market will see an HD Radio as standard OEM equipment in at least one model of each automaker’s vehicles, and standard on most models of all automakers within about eight years.

Emmis Interactive, BE Debut TagStation

Emmis Interactive and Broadcast Electronics conducted live demos of TagStation, a jointly developed song tagging solution that enables listeners to tag songs played over the air by FM RDS and HD Radio receivers.

TagStation is a Web-based application that helps stations manage song matching, which the companies say is important to providing consumers with a good song-tagging experience whether it’s through their iPod nano, Zune HD or other FM or HD Radio receiver.

TagStation was designed to integrate with Broadcast Electronics’ TRE on-air software and builds on the Emmis Interactive suite of digital products.

BE Vice President of Studio Systems Ray Miklius says the companies hope industry use of TagStation will result in broader adoption and market penetration of song tagging.

NPR Labs Rich Rarey, left, and John Kean, far right, demo the Personalized Audio Information Service to allow blind and low-vision listeners of radio reading services to capture individual stories by topic for on-demand listening. Photo by Jim Peck Emmis Interactive Co-President Rey Mena characterized TagStation as software-based, rather than a hardware-based tagging solution. Paul Brenner, Emmis Communications senior vice president and chief technology officer as well as president of the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium, says the product can work with any on-air playout system.

NPR Labs Demos Personalized Audio Information Service

NPR Labs demonstrated its Personalized Audio Information Service that would allow blind and low-vision listeners of radio reading services to capture individual stories by topic for on-demand listening.

The technology uses XML tags containing program information that are transmitted within the program associated data/program service data (PAD/PSD) comment field of a standard HD Radio channel.

“A PAIS-enabled HD Radio receiver recognizes the received PAIS tag, compares it against a list of programs the listener has selected, and if there’s a match, begins recording the program,” said Rich Rarey of NPR Labs.

For the NAB demo, NPR Labs sent PAIS tags over the public Internet to WETA(FM), Washington, D.C., which then transmitted the PAIS tags on its HD3 channel; those tags were received by a special HD Radio receiver that had PAIS functionality coded into it. The receiver’s PAIS setup menu displays the various program categories available to the listener, and allows the listener to choose a single category, like the reading of the financial pages of a local newspaper, or a broad category, such as all programs read from a local newspaper.

The PAIS tags can also command HD receivers to alert the listener to emergency messages, such as tornado and hurricane warnings.

The PAIS initiative is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.