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IBOC+Satellite? Subscribers Not Impressed

Commenters Oppose Rules to Mandate It in Their Radios

Commenters Oppose Rules to Mandate It in Their Radios

When the Federal Communications Commission okayed the merger of Sirius and XM this August, commissioners pledged to initiate a Notice of Inquiry on the issue of requiring satellite radios to also receive IBOC signals “or any other technologies capable of providing audio entertainment services,” according to the decision.

Radio World peeked into MM Docket 08-172. Initial public comments were due Nov. 10 and replies are due on Dec. 9.

As of mid-October, there had been about 30 comments filed, mostly from satellite radio subscribers who opposed a mandate, as well as an amateur radio operator who opposed it and one broadcaster who supported the concept.

Here is a sampling of early remarks on the concept and on a bill introduced by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., that would mandate including HD Radio capability in any receivers that can tune analog AM/FM and satellite radio signals. Occasional minor typographical errors and punctuation have been modified here for ease of reading.

We will publish additional comments as more are filed.

Let the Market Decide

No mandate! Let the market and manufacturers decide if they want to include iBiquity’s proprietary, low-resolution junk format in the same box.

HD Radio’s pathetic adoption rate should be a huge red flag here. It was an answer to a question no one asked, highlighting the frittering-away of the public’s interest performed by the FCC when it adopted it as the sole “standard.” …

The public places great value in the consumer radio spectrum, which has always been best-served by analog radio. Clear Channel places great value in the consumer radio spectrum too. Who do you serve?

David Deckert
Woodstock, Ga.

Turnabout Is Fair

If it is fair to require Sirius XM to include HD Radio in their radios, why would it not also be fair to require the opposite? That all HD Radios have a receiver for satellite radio?

It is ironic that it would be required to include a component (HD Radio receiver) in a unit (satellite radio) that people are purchasing in order to avoid terrestrial broadcasts and the commercials/homogenization that goes with it.

Brian Hardenstein
Walnut Creek, Calif.

And the Kitchen Sink

No, no, NO to requiring satellite-radio receivers … to also carry HD Radio receivers! I am an XM subscriber. HD Radio is fancy-schmancy terrestrial radio, still with commercials. Satellite radio is, on most channels, commercial-free. So why should I be forced to pay extra for an HD receiver?

Republicans supposedly believe in “the free market,” right? So let HD Radio continue to be an add-on option for a satellite-radio receiver. Either that, or go even further: Every satellite-radio receiver must also include an HD Radio receiver, a Swiss Army knife and a cigarette lighter. (I’m being sarcastic.)

Thomas Richardson
Missouri City, Texas

It’s a Good Idea

I believe it would be ultimately beneficial to all consumers were the FCC to require that all SDARS receivers (e.g., XM and Sirius) be capable of AM/FM DAB (“HD Radio”) reception as well.

In their arguments for a waiver of FCC SDARS ownership rules to allow them to merge, XM and Sirius argued that as a service, SDARS competes more with other media technologies than they do with each other. This premise is fundamentally flawed unless every SDARS consumer, by definition, is able to use the same device to access other media technologies. …

Requiring SDARS receivers to have HD Radio reception capability would also provide a convenient means of “jump-starting” the nascent DAB migration for AM and FM. A chief problem with the migration has been the inability for consumers to purchase receivers; what few are available are often very difficult to purchase in a store, and not much easier to purchase on-line.

While it arguably is not the FCC’s job to stimulate a private business … it is the FCC’s job to act in the interest of the public. The FCC has already decided that it is benefit to the consumer to migrate AM and FM reception to a Digital Audio Broadcasting solution, and the iBiquity HD Radio solution has been formally accepted by the FCC, and the National Radio Systems Committee, as the official DAB standard for the United States. Ergo, the FCC has a mandate by default to promote HD Radio for the betterment of consumers.

I do not believe the addition of HD Radio reception will prove prohibitively expensive nor difficult to implement due to size. The chips themselves are just IC chips; not terribly big. The existing displays and concerns on virtually all SDARS receivers can act as software controls for AM/FM reception just as easily. And when done in bulk, the individual costs per unit inevitably drop substantially.

Moreover, since all SDARS receivers will have to be re-tooled to accept transmissions from both XM’s and Sirius’s satellite networks, this is an excellent opportunity to “get in on the ground floor” as it were, and drastically reduce later implementation costs.

One oft-cited concern is that HD Radio tends to require external antennas to function properly. However, this is no different from SDARS, which also effectively requires an external antenna to receive the satellite signal. If necessary, it would be an acceptable compromise to have the SDARS receivers sacrifice internal antennas of any kind in exchange for external antenna jacks (twin-lead for AM, coaxial F type connector for FM — the most common for external antennas).

Aaron Read
Canandaigua, N.Y.

The above author also is an occasional contributor to RW; opinions are his own

Unnecessary Appendage

I am an amateur radio operator with license KB1OKL as well as a concerned citizen and this bill H.R. 7157 Rep. Markey is sponsoring is ridiculous.

He cites part of the reason to include HD radio in sat-rad receivers as public safety. First of all, I have not seen a car built since 1972 that hasn’t come with an AM-FM receiver already built in and this included my brand-new 2009 Pontiac which includes XM satellite as well as AM and FM analog.

Analog radio works much better than HD Radio. HD shortens the receive range to a mere 10–15 miles and interferes with adjacent channels, especially on the AM band at night where it is now a mess of white noise masking AM stations all up and down the band.

HD needs to be shut off for public safety, not added as an unnecessary, unused appendage to an already established albeit struggling industry known as satellite.

Robert D. Young Jr.
Millbury, Mass.

Where Does FCC Authority End?

I respectfully submit that it is well beyond the bounds and abilities of the FCC to design and develop electronic equipment for the 21st century. Imposing a mandatory design requirement that all radios must be capable of receiving multiple, fully non-compatible signals is unacceptable.

Where does your supposed authority end? Why didn’t the commission direct Blu-Ray DVD makers to include HD technology? Perhaps you should have imposed Beta technology on VHS manufacturers, too. The FCC would have tried, except for the fact that those markets couldn’t be coerced by your outdated and self-serving licensing practices.

The market will decide which services are desired and supported, and which are no longer needed or in need of change to become desired again. … I hope that this commission will show a glimmer of honor, and stop the pandering to special interest groups representing a dinosaur industry.

Bruce Meinhold
Chester, Md.