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NPR to change it’s name to NPISAIPD

National Public ?

National Public ?

NPISAIPD: National Public Internet Streaming Audio with I-Pod Downloads.  Lets face it, when the National Public Radio CEO, Vivian Schiller, basically talks about doing away with radio in the next 5 to 10 years, what are they going to call the network?  I suppose they could just say “National Public Media” or something like that.  With radio’s current trajectory, she might not be wrong.

Of course all of the NPR affiliates that kick large sums of money up the chain to the network may have something to say about all this.  After all, they are the one heavily invested in transmitters, towers, STL’s and all the other equipment, buildings and real estate required to transmit radio signals.  Not that I particularly dislike NPR, I think they have some fine programs, but much of it is syndicated and this is where radio is falling apart.  Non-local radio stations will perish.  Only stations that offer something different and not available through other sources will survive and thrive, voice tracking and syndication will become the kiss of death.

This also leaves a bit of a problem for NPR itself.  Much of its revenue (more than 50%) comes from network affiliation fees with member stations.  If they intend on short circuiting those stations cutting them out of the programming loop (Schiller says no but we’ll see), they are going to have to figure out how to make up that lost revenue.  If I were an NPR member station, I’d surely be looking at my network affiliation agreement and looking for ways to replace some of that content with something local.  That would be planning ahead.

Local Radio.

Local news, local music, local arts, local sports, local weather, local content.  I can find out what is going on in China, Israel, India or almost any place around the globe with a few key strokes on the computer.  I can’t find out what happened at the local town board meeting, what the county legislature is up to, or whether the school budget passed.  All of those things have immediate affects on my taxes and therefore my family finances.

Local radio.  Fill in the void left by dead newspapers.  That is what radio stations need to do, go local or perish.

The lesser of two evils

If I had to pick between allowing HD RadioTM a 6 dB increase or removing the third adjacent protection for LPFM stations, I’d choose LPFM.

In tests performed by NPR, Ibiquity’s In Band On Channel (IBOC) digital radio scheme created significant interference to the first adjacent channel when running with 6% of the analog carrier power (-14 dB referenced to carrier) vs. the 1% (-20 dB referenced to carrier) currently allowed.  The NAB has would like to see -10 dB referenced to carrier or 10% of the analog carrier power.

Remember Bill Clinton’s sign during his first election, something about the economy, stupid.  In this case, it’s the Bandwidth, Stupid.  In the US and Canada, FM stations are allowed 200 kHz of spectrum to transmit their analog signals.   Analog signals include main channel mono (left plus right), and sub channels for stereo pilot (19 kHz) stereo matrix (left minus right), RDS (57 kHz) and any subcarriers in the 67-92 kHz range.

HD RadioTM radio requires 400 kHz of spectrum to transmit it’s digital carriers.  Here come those laws of nature again, you can’t fit 400 kHz bandwidth into 200 kHz of spectrum.

Ibiquity decided to try it anyway, contravening the FCC’s rules about FM broadcasting bandwidth channels which had been in place since the advent of FM broadcasting in the early 1940’s.  What they attempted to do was make the power level on the adjacent channel so low that most analog radios would not have a problem with it while there was a strong signal from another station present.  (hey buddy, how about a little of this new thing called crack?) This is known as the capture effect.

Now, Ibiquity created this whole thing to make some money.  Nothing wrong with that, this is a market economy after all.  They marketed the hell out of HD RadioTM radio, I saw them at various trade shows, they had full page advertisements in all the trade magazines, they hit the phones, it was a full court press (it’ll make you really cool, you’ll be able to do things you can do now and you’ll feel really good).  They would even reduce or waive the license fee (here, just take a little rock, try it, on me, you’ll see).

So they were able to sell a very expensive system that has significant coverage issues because of the low power levels needed to satisfy the FCC’s concerns about adjacent channel interference.  The NAB and many of the big radio groups bought in to it (gotcha, crackhead, you’re mine now).

Now, of course, those that bought into HD RadioTM radio want their investment to work, (which it doesn’t right now) so all the talk of power increases and hey, lets just disregard that pesky interference issue.  If you ignore it, eventually it will go away (along with the entire FM band).

The problems with HD RadioTM radio are:

  1. Inadequate building penetration at the current power level (1% of carrier power)
  2. Bandwidth that exceeds current channel assignments on both AM and FM frequencies.
  3. Proprietary nature of HD RadioTM‘s CODECs and licensing for second channels give Ibiquity too large a role saying how radio is broadcast in the US.  Remember, radio station licenses are granted in the public interest, the owners are trustees of the public
  4. Complete lack of public awareness.
  5. It doesn’t really improve anything anyway.

By the way, shame on NPR (again) for their corporate stance contrary to maintaining good quality radio and serving public interest.

Compared to that, LPFM is a very minor thing.  As I said before, removing the third adjacent protection will raise the noise floor in the FM band and by default cause more interference.  However, I’ll take a little more interference created by community radio stations over the complete rack and  ruin of the FM band.

Donate a car to support radio

What are we, the National Kidney Founation?  I found this interesting link on the local NPR station website:  Donate a Car to support WAMC

For some reason, I like Car Talk.  Did I also mention I like getting my teeth drilled at the dentist and poking myself in the eye with sticks?  I am a radio engineer, after all, and pain is a lifestyle.

So, I’ve been keeping my eyes open (stick and all) for a possible donation candidate, and here it is:

car ready to be picked up for donation

car ready to be picked up for donation

A 19?? VW bug jammed between two trees.  This one is at our FM transmitter site in Peekskill, NY.  It has been there for several years, probably boosted from a nearby major metropolis and taken for a joy ride out to the country.  I checked the trunk (the one in the front) for bodies, and there are none.

So, when can you come and get it?  Oh, you will need a chain saw because the trees have grown a little bit since the car was parked here.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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