June 09, 2004

HC Radio

Fred Wilson was blogging yesterday about HD Radio -- high definition radio. He mentions a USA Today story about HD Radio. He says, "I am getting a digital radio installed in my car in the next month. I can't wait to get the improved sound quality that this reporter from USA Today describes."

I have a serious beef with HD Radio and the company, iBiquity that's pushing it. A while back I contacted iBquity and asked them, isn't HD Radio basically about improved audio quality for the existing stations -- not a way for consumers to tune in to 500 stations? David Salemi, VP of Marketing at iBiquity wrote back:

From: Salemi, Dave
To: Brian Dear

Brian,

For the first generation product you are correct. Over time, iBiquity will rollout other audio-based services such as on-demand traffic, weather, sports, etc. Additionally, NPR has been testing multiple audio content broadcasts using the HD Radio system (a main program and additional programs at the same frequency). It's defined by iBiquity as supplemental audio services. NPR calls its project "Tomorrow Radio". The recent notice of proposed rulemaking does address supplemental audio services. Hope this helps.

Dave

David Salemi
Vice President, Marketing
iBiquity Digital Corporation

Here's what I posted as a comment in Fred's HD Radio blog post yesterday:

I don't see what all the fuss is about HD Radio -- if all you get is improved sound quality. Who cares, if this means that all you'll get is clearer ClearChannel and louder Limbaugh?

Far, far more important to me is a vastly larger number of stations. I want CHOICE. I want to hear indie superstar DJs mixing tunes from their Macs at home. I want to tune in to live lectures and speeches. I want to hear sports programs. I want eclectic genres of music represented. I want lots of local flavor. I want public affairs programs discussing every issue under the sun.

Give me HC Radio (High Choice) before HD Radio any day.

Posted by: Brian Dear | June 8, 2004 05:13 PM

Today I noticed Fred has a new blog post up wherein he agrees with me:

Brian says in his comment to my earlier "HD Radio Is Coming" post that he wants HC Radio, not HD Radio.

He says that HC stands for High Choice, meaning more programming.

Brian is dead right. Sound quality is way better in HD Radio, but programming choice may be the ultimate value proposition.

What many people don't know is that the FM digital signal can be broken into many more streams and FM stations may begin to offer multiple audio streams on a single FM channel.

NPR calls this Tomorrow Radio and they've put a lot of information out into the public domain about it. I think this description of the technology on Crutchfield's site is one of the best descriptions.

Multiple audio programming streams on a single FM channel is not limited to NPR stations. I bet we'll see some interesting stuff develop in this area over the next couple years as HD radios start to penetrate the market.

My mind boggles that even the most sophisticated car, whether it's the latest sedan from Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, you name it, or a fancy SUV or a practical Honda or the latest Hyundai or VW or whatever --- they all have AM/FM radios that are no different than ones 30+ years ago!. Sure, you can say, "that's what XM Radio or Sirius is for". I disagree. Satellites are great, but I don't see 10000 indie DJs in high school cutting deals with XM or Sirius.

The fundamental problem with radio is that a few very powerful corporations have a virtual LOCK, a complete and utter monopoly, on the few stations on the AM and FM dial. And they want to, and intend to, keep it that way for ever, thank you very much. Their whole scam depends on scarcity of programming. If there were 500, or 1000, or 10000 channels of information available, why, think of the drop in ad revenue dollars. No way are we going to allow a 19-yr-old geek with a Mac and a big iTunes collection to broadcast his playlists in our market. No way are we going to allow the likes of Ken's Last Ever Radio Extravaganza all over the FM dial (that would be so awesome!). No way are we gonna allow the audio from C-SPAN I and II on the the radio.

Instead, we have an FCC bought and paid for by the corporations, and the laws to prevent CHOICE from happening. Again, I remain astounded that in 2004, AM and FM radio remain as hokey and lo-tech as they were in the 1960s. The only reason is that a few powerful corporations have made sure it stays that way.

Improving the quality of the audio for the ClearChannels of the world doth not make a solution, in my humble opinion. It only prologs and exacerbates the problem. It is not progress.

It is just a shiner boot on the neck of progress.

I want choice. I want to hear from all voices, not just a select few.

The car radio in 2004 should be digital, for sure, but personalizable, and integrated wirelessly with my PC, PDA, wi-fi, etc. So I can tell it, "here are my preferences --- the stations I like, the keywords I like, the news I am especially interested in, the music I prefer. If I hear a tune I like, I should be able to press a button and buy it -- while driving -- and know with confidence that the tune is now on my iPod, or in my online storage vault somewhere, ready to download into iTunes at home. If I hear a great radio interview but I'm pulling in the driveway and the show's only halfway over, I should be able to tell the radio to save this program -- a la TiVo (RaVo!?) -- and I'll listen to the rest of it later, on my iPod.

This is HC Radio. So, where can I get it?

Posted by brian at June 9, 2004 11:12 AM | TrackBack

Comments

So what you want, is Blog Radio...you've got a point. What we all really deserve is the ability to filter and tune and tweak get the music/talk/news/entertainment/infotainment we want.

I'm not sure the current paradigm will make that work. As originally developed, there was something quaintly socialist about the FCC and the airwaves.

Back then, they realized that the airwaves---spectrum ladies and gents---is a publicly owned asset. Licensing a portion of that spectrum carried (and theorectically still carries) with it responsibilities to work towards the common wealth, the common good.

So, if the spectrum is delivered via commerically owned and operated satellites, what happens to that responsibility?

Moreover, with the consolidation of all media into so few hands, who really ensures that accountability?

We can't reverse consolidation but maybe we can insist that, with the increase in spectrum afforded by digital broadcasting, the public (i.e., Joe Blogger) should be given large portions of spectrum. Think public access and cable TV.

Just a thought...
By the way...for a really chilling account of Radio America, read David Brock's new book, The Republican Noise Machine.

Posted by: Jerry at June 15, 2004 06:27 PM

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