We recently found out that our HD2 channel was off the air
for two weeks and no one new about it.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has invested millions of dollars building and promoting iBiquity’s HD Radio system for public radio. CPB endorsed and embraced the whole concept early.
Consider this cheery 2005 CPB Press Release:
Over 800 Additional Stations to Receive Funding for HD Radio Technology
September 22, 2005 - The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and iBiquity Digital Corporation, today announced an agreement that will accelerate the conversion of over 800 AM and FM CPB-funded stations to iBiquity's digital HD Radio broadcasting.
Under the agreement, CPB will purchase a group license that will allow more than 400 CPB-funded public radio stations to acquire iBiquity's digital HD Radio technology.
"This historic agreement will give…public broadcasters the resources they need to pursue digital HD Radio…this will mean dramatically improved sound quality and a greater variety of music, news and information choices on their favorite public radio stations."
But, that’s not what happened.
Today it is rare to see CPB-sponsored HD channels ever show up in “the book.” The few who do seem to be getting their listeners from simulcasts on old-fashioned FM translators.
How much has CPB invested in HD Radio?
I asked CPB’s press folks and haven’t heard back from them.
CPB offered Digital Conversion Grants – a sweetheart deal to get stations into the HD biz.
Consider these CPB “sales points” to stations in 2005:• A licensee may apply for a grant of up to $75,000 per transmitter converted, but the total grant can not exceed 70 percent of the total eligible digital conversion cost… [The total estimated installation cost was $130,000.]
• Each of the major vendors [for HD equipment] has agreed to discount their equipment on a package basis to CPB grant recipients. Discounts can range from 10 to 22% or more. Contact your vendor for a specific discount quote. All conversion budgets must be submitted with the vendor discount applied to each item.
• If your engineer is a qualified independent contract engineer, that cost may be included in the budget.
• Stations enjoy favorable terms and a one time Main Channel License Fee of $5,000. CPB pre-pays the main channel fee on behalf of qualifying station.
• Stations enjoy favorable royalty terms.
This is how public radio got into the HD Radio business.
How’s it going now?
Here is a recent comment I heard from a Midwest PD when I asked him how the station’s HD-2 was doing:
Funny you should ask about HD because we recently found out that our HD2 channel was off the air for two weeks and no one new about it. Technically, we were on the air because the carrier was on. But, a board op failed to turn up the fader for the main audio line and there was no audio going to the transmitter. It was discovered two weeks later when the same board op went into the “HD room” and noticed the fader was down. He told me and I haven’t told a soul.
So here is my point: I have the highest regard for CPB and the people in the radio division. CPB did not cause the pathetic performance of HD Radio, they bought the hype.
I want CPB to be part of the solution. I am calling for CPB to join my effort to have the FCC set up an independent panel and investigate this wasteful boondoggle. Let’s find a better way to use digital radio broadcasting to serve the American Public.