22 marzo 2007

IBOC di notte. Fine della radio AM in USA?

La FCC ha approvato l'uso di segnali IBOC HD Radio ibridi anche nel night time. Vi riporto un po' di comunicati ufficiali circolati or ora sui gruppi di discussione americani.

FCC Adopts Final HD Radio Rules

The FCC this morning adopted final digital radio regulations that allow FM radio stations to commence digital multicast operation without prior FCC approval, and which permit AM stations – which have been limited to daytime-only digital operation – to commence hybrid
digital nighttime operations. The order also permits FM stations to use separate analog and digital antennas without applying for special temporary authority, andpermits FM stations to operate in the "extended" hybrid mode, which affords an extra 50kb of space of data carrying capability.
Additionally, FM booster and Low Power FM stations are now permitted to operate digitally. The order requires all stations operating in digital to offer a free digital signal that is comparable in quality to its analog signal, and that stations digitally simulcast all content heard on the analog signal.
The FCC also adopted what it called a "flexible bandwidth" policy that allows stations to transmit multicast signals and data streams at their discretion.
In a move that could prove lucrative to broadcasters, the FCC will allow stations to lease additional bandwidth to third parties, subject to certain regulatory requirements.
The commission also extended all existing emergency alert, political broadcasting, station identification, and sponsorship identification rules to all free digital program streams.
The agency held back on enforcing a mandatory digital conversion schedule on radio stations, and doesn't allow stations to convert to exclusive digital operations at this juncture.
The order defers a decision on whether the FCC should impose content control requirements on archiving and redistributing digital broadcast recordings aired by digital radio stations since industry negotiations on the issue are ongoing.
The decision comes eight months after the FCC unceremoniously pulled back from releasing the rules over wrangling among the commissioners over whether to impose new public interest obligations on digital radio broadcast. Under today's order, no new public interest
obligations were adopted.

IBOC Rules Pass FCC in 'Historic' Vote
The FCC voted for final authorization for IBOC today.

The decision, when it takes effect, would allow all AMs to go digital at night. Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle told RW Online there would be a procedure established to handle interference issues, should those occur. The decision also gives a green light to multicasting, so broadcasters no longer need to apply for experimental authority to multicast.
The digital conversion is not mandated and the item allows for FM translators, boosters and LPFMs, if technically feasible, to go IBOC as well. The vote was 5-0. Democratic commissioners objected to portions of the rule, but voted for the item. Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein wanted to establish whether additional public interest obligations should apply to the digital channels and to multicast channels used for
subscriptions channels in particular. The FCC is seeking comments on this item.
All the commissioners called the digital radio vote historic, and Commissioner Robert McDowell noted that his colleagues really could have had the rules done at last July's meeting.

IBOC Proponents Breathe Sigh of Relief

After the vote to authorize final IBOC rules, Ibiquity General Counsel Al Shuldiner said the rules give greater clarity to broadcasters. "I'm ecstatic," he told RW Online at the commission.
He was also pleased the agency voted to authorize dual-antenna operation without the need to apply for an STA. During the meeting, one commissioner singled out public radio for achieving
advancements in multicasting, mentioning WAMU(FM), Washington's multicast channel of AAA music from WTMD(FM), Towson, Md. NPR CTO & Executive Director of NPR Labs Mike Starling, attending the meeting, said the fact that IBOC will no longer be considered experimental will go a long way to ensure confidence of receiver manufacturers and broadcasters. "Today's approval of full multicasting authority opens doors we only dreamed of six years ago," he said.

In soldoni, la radio digitale In Band a tecnologia Ibiquity è ufficialmente adottata dagli Stati Uniti, che ancora non si sono espressi sull'obbligatorietà del passaggio al digitale (anzi, viene esplicitamente detto che la qualità dell'analogico e del digitale devono essere equiparabili). In soldoni sono passati due concetti: per l'FM, la possibilità di diffondere una molteplicità di programmi, eventualmente affitando la banda digitale a terzi. E' anche passato senza nessua obiezione la possibilità di trasmettere in digitale su onde medie anche dopo il tramonto. Dire che cosa succederà adesso è, nonostante tutto, abbastanza difficile. Una buona parte dei DXer che partecipano ai gruppi di discussione da cui sto estraendo queste considerazioni, ritiene che presto le onde medie saranno talmente piene di rumori laterali digitali da rendere impossibile non solo la ricezione di stazioni distanti, ma l'ascolto delle locali in generale. Non solo: le interferenze saranno un boomerang anche per le stazioni digitali che subiranno i rumori nella stessa misura, e vedranno ridursi i bacini di copertura del digitale. Per alcuni questo implicherà una proliferazione di processi e cause. In questo senso diverse sono le voci ottimiste: la decisione dell'FCC, alla prova dei fatti, risulterà azzardata e la Commissione dovrà tornare sui suoi passi. Il solito Scott Fybush è sicuramente tra i più ottimisti, perché si dice convinto che il digitale interessa soprattutto agli operatori di stazioni FM e che sulle onde medie non prenderà mai veramente piede. Curiosamente, emergono anche le prime dietrologie. C'è per esempio chi ipotizza che la RIAA, l'associazione delle case discografiche, abbia chiesto l'aumento delle fee che le radio su Internet devono versare agli autori delle canzoni trasmesse proprio perché sapevano che la FCC avrebbe approvato queste nuove regole e che il caos derivante dalla presenza mista di radio analogiche e digitali avrebbe provocato una generale disaffezione nei confronti del mezzo radiofonico. Semplice paranoia? Staremo a vedere.
E per noi europei? In teoria il rumore potrebbe propagarsi anche qui, anche se al massimo solo un ricevitore molto sensibile e una buona antenna (cioè noi DXer) se ne accorgeranno nell'eventualità.
Ecco i pareri più articolati e interessanti che stanno arrivando dall'altro lato dell'oceano:

(Brian Leyton)
While this may not affect that many stations around the country, it sure does affect those of us in metropolitan areas. In my case, my superlocal neighbor at 710 is running IBOC daytime, and I expect that they will do the same at night now that it's approved. So I can kiss goodbye at least 30khz of spectrum on either side of them, as well as another 20-30khz on either side of the first harmonic.
Not to mention all of the other locals. 570, 790, 980, 1020, 1070, 1100. Did I miss anyone?
I have a feeling though, that we haven't heard the end of this yet. The hash skipping in from distant stations is going to kill many stations in their own local areas. The analog stations skipping in on adjacents, as well as selective fading is going to destroy the digital coverage at night anyhow. I'll be surprised to see digital coverage of more than 5-10 miles at night.
Let the lawsuits begin!

(Neil Kazaross)
Thanks for your thougtful insights as always, but unless I am missreading something, it appears that night AM IBOC will now be allowed.
Perhaps I missunderstand your opinion here, but all it will take is 20 or so full time powerhouse IBOCers to make a huge mess out of this hobby for those of us in the center of the USA or for those of us on the coasts who want to try to log domestics.
Those of us living in N.E. or Maritimes, or the Pac N.W. should still be able to use directive antennas aimed away from the states and won't have anything near the major hindrence I will have here near Chicago/Milwaukee if just a few stations keep IBOC on 24 hours.
We can expect to gradually lose more and more frequencies to IBOC at night, until the broadcasters finally realize what a useless mess they've created.
73 KAZ guessing he'll bowl a little more, shoot a little more pool, and watch more TV at night!

(Bob Young)
I sent this to the FCC General complaint address: fccinfo (at) fcc (dot) gov.
Your decision today to allow nighttime IBOC was an ill informed and bad decision. I live near Boston, during late afternoon when skywave starts WBZ 1030 interferes from 1010-1050, totally obliterating 1020 and 1040. what is going to happen at night when KDKA starts IBOC and their IBOC noise collides somewhere near NYC? Repeat this ad nauseum across the country and you are going to have people deserting AM radio in droves. The only people I know that even know about this abomination at this point are DXer's who are rightly angered and concerned. You can think of us as being canaries in the coal mine. Shame on you, IBOC is very questionable on FM radio as it's range is about 5 miles with an outside antenna and is totally useless and is harmul inteference on AM. You have been sold a bunch of malarkey and fell for it. Whether you realize it or not many many people use skywave at night without realizing it, skywave will now be useless which is AM radios best feature and thousands of small stations will go out of business. Yes this was a historic decision, it will go down in history as the new coke of radio. I hope this decision is reversed before the AM bands are completely
deserted, Thank you.

(Michael Richard)
I feel bad for you Brian. In the major metros it's gonna suck. But then again in the major metros the hash will lead to stations killing or out-hashing each other. Like you said, let the lawsuits begin :) Mark my words....things will get ugly and it will only take a few days -- or nights of this to see what it's really going to be like and I think the interference will just be too much. There's gonna be a lot of angry words - and they'll be from listeners and station owners...not just DXers like us. Even with all of those there's still lots of space to DX and ways to use loops and things like that (just turning the radio slightly) that can increase nulls. Hell we have plenty of folks on our list that can amazingly sit there and DX a LOCAL channel and actually null a local. So I'm sure they'll be able to null the noise too. I don't think it's as bad as we're perceiving it for us DXers. And honestly...the FCC just gave them enough rope. They'll hang themselves now. For FM, it's a good thing. It works. For AM, I'm sorry but it just doesn't seem like it's going anywhere. Nobody cares. I don't see stations RUSHING to get IBOC equipment installed just like I don't see consumers rushing out to get IBOC radios to listen to sports talk or Sean Hannity or Rush in clear digital quality. It supposedly makes AM sound like FM. Well COOL! Let's have some MUSIC then! :)

(Scott Fybush)
Now that the FCC has done its thing today, I fully expect the DX list to get very full, very fast, of more of the same doom-and-gloom posts that we've been seeing in earnest for the last few weeks, predicting the death of the DX hobby with what sometimes seems (to my eyes at least)
like an unseemly glee.
My two cents amidst the noise, if I may:
I watched the FCC hearing this morning. The commissioners spent almost no time talking about the AM nighttime authority for IBOC. Their interest is in FM HD multicasting, and particularly in how that affects their pet issues - programming diversity, sponsorship identification, political advertising, obscenity, etc.
I spend a lot of time traveling the country, visiting radio stations large and small and talking to radio people, from small station owners all the way up to the engineering VPs at the big groups. Here's what I'm hearing: multicasting - *FM HD* multicasting, which is the only kind there is - is where all the action is. The original idea that "improved" digital audio would be the big selling point for HD Radio has fallen largely by the wayside.
For AM HD, that "improved" audio was the only selling point, and without it, converting more stations to IBOC will be a tough sell. Just because 24-hour operation is now legally possible does NOT - I can't emphasize this enough - does NOT mean that we'll suddenly go from the current couple of hundred AMs with HD to thousands of AM HD stations, overnight, or probably ever.
Based on what I'm hearing and seeing in my travels, I don't think the lack of 24-hour authority was the factor that was holding most AM stations back from converting to HD. There are plenty of other drawbacks that are well known within the engineering community: nighttime
interference, questionable audio quality on the current codecs, and limited reach of AM HD signals (of the three HD AMs in my market, I can only hear two of them at all reliably, and I expect that the third, which is already iffy by day, will be entirely unusable in HD at night
where I am.)
Bottom line: will HD Radio be a failure? No - but whatever success it achieves as a niche medium will be as a result of FM multicasting and the new options it opens up to broadcasters in a position to take advantage of them (like public radio, for instance, where an average station has access to much more programming than it has airtime on its main signal). AM HD may go the way of AM stereo and fade into oblivion, or at worse it may show up on a few hundred stations and cause us, as DXers, some new interference headaches.
But to predict that somehow everyone on the dial will suddenly turn on the buzzsaws just because the FCC says they can is to ignore a market reality in which AM HD has already become an afterthought. No, this is not a happy day for AM DX, but neither is it the end of the
hobby, not by a long shot.

(Doug Smith)
What Scott F. said...
A few other thoughts...
- Usually this kind of FCC action isn't actually effective until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. In recent amateur cases this publication seems to take about a week to ten days. So these IBOC rules won't be effective until early May.
- (though I wouldn't be too surprised to see some stations receive Special Temporary Authority before then)
- As Scott says, don't expect a stampede towards implementation of IBOC, especially on AM stations.
- There are islands of IBOC inactivity, and they're Australia-sized... A quick scan of the IBOC stations listed in the back of the NRC Log shows 53% of them are on clear channels. 38% are on regionals, and only 9% on graveyard channels. Smaller stations are not interested.
We survived the development of the all-night station, 24/7 operation, satellite feeds, automation, hourly (instead of twice-hourly) legal IDs, and a radio war with Cuba. We'll survive this.

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