Wednesday, January 21, 2015


As many of you know, on January 14, 2015 I filed an informal complaint with the FCC stating iBiquity’s HD Radio scheme is not in the public interest. My complaint is based on the fact that the entire HD Radio platform has not attracted enough listening to be considered a meaningful public service. My complaint is FCC “Ticket No. 83715.”  You can see my earlier posts about this at

Today I received a very informative e-mail from Ernie Sanchez, a DC Communications attorney, who was General Counsel of NPR from 1974 to 1981.  Ernie had heard about my complaint to the FCC and offered these thoughts:

I appreciate that you are trying to stimulate some debate on the broader public interest issues associated with this apparent debacle.  I think your filing could stimulate such a discussion, although I don't see any of the main players taking any responsibility for what has happened--or not happened.
• The FCC did not license Ibiquity but they have blessed the technology as being appropriate for the purpose for which it was intended. Use of the technology is of course optional for the stations that choose to utilize it.
[KEN’S NOTE: I highlighted blessed because that term describes the apparent “nod and wink” agreement between iBiquity and the FCC.]
• Here is how I see the parties defending themselves:
The FCC will say they approved the technology for optional use but did not force anyone to use it. I'm sure they will say they cannot be faulted for their role in approving a technology that the marketplace has been unwilling to adopt.  I'm sure they would say that if someone else has a better technology, they should bring it to the FCC's attention and get it approved for similar potential use.
[KEN’S NOTE: I highlighted the phrase a technology that the marketplace has been unwilling to adopt because it is the core of my argument to review HD Radio for top to bottom.]
 Ibiquity will blame the stations and the hardware makers.  They will probably fault the FCC for not making the implementation of the technology mandatory.
The stations will blame Ibquity, the FCC, and the public – everyone but themselves and their programming.
I look forward to hearing what happens to your comments and what discussion is stimulated.  You should offer to do a panel at the NAB.
THE SANCHEZ LAW FIRM P.C., 1155 F STREET N.W., SUITE 1050, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20004; PHONE: 202-237-2814;  FAX: 202-540-9311; E-MAIL ADDRESS:

1 comment:

  1. I think "blessed" is a little misleading here. There WAS a formal process with the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC) to create the legal standard for Digital Audio Broadcasting in the USA and to base it on HD Radio technology from iBiquity.

    You can argue, and I would agree, that there was a lot of winking and nodding going on throughout that process. Any formal standard where the inner workings are allowed to remain largely proprietary and unknown to the public is a terrible idea, but it's what happened. iBiquity basically played hardball and refused to back away from this point, and receiver OEM's where already starting to release HD Radios before the NRSC-5 was finished (!!!!) and people were...rightly so...very concerned that if HD Radio didn't get out there quick, then the internet was going to eat radio's lunch.

    As it turns out, nobody anticipated that just a couple years later, the iPhone would come out and render pretty much all of the much-touted advantages of HD Radio completely moot. Or moot enough that there's almost zero reason for any broadcaster to invest in HD Radio now, not unless you can get a grant to cover the costs, or there's a special case to induce ROI. (i.e. leasing an HD2 to a third party who uses it to feed a FM translator, for example)

    One could level a charge at all the players involved...the FCC, iBiquity, broadcasters, auto OEM's...that they bickered and dithered for far, far, far too long and by the time a product hit the market it was already way too late for it to entrench itself enough to make a meaningful impact. That's true, but by the same token, the marketplace on mass communications has changed SO fast in the last twenty years that a lot can be forgiven. Up until 2000 or so, IBOC was really cutting-edge technology. Then suddenly ten years later, it's completely obsolete. That's too fast for industries where it just takes 4 or 5 years, minimum, and really more 10-15 years...for rollouts and adoption to take place. In other words, even if everyone actually cooperated and worked together from the start, it might not have made any difference.