21 dicembre 2007

IBOC, due pareri a confronto

RadioWorld ha organizzato un dibattito a distanza tra Larry Langford, un ingegnere e proprietario di un micro agglomerato di due stazioni AM del Michigan, e Stephen Poole, della assai più potente Crawford Broadcasting. La questione, evidentemente, è: IBOC sì, IBOC no. In particolare i due contendenti si soffermano sull'IBOC in onde medie. Langford dice che il digitale uccide le onde medie con i rumori che "tracimano" sulle frequenze adiacenti, come tecnologia proprietaria è molto costosa per le stazioni (specie per le piccole stazioni); e come se non bastasse viene largamente ignorato dal pubblico che ancora non ha accumulato un parco ricevitori adeguato (e forse non lo farà ancora per anni, visto che la licenza da versare a Ibiquity incide sui costi di produzione e sui prezzi). Poole sostiene che le onde medie stanno morendo comunque davanti all'avanzata delle alternative digitali e che proprio per questo motivo non ci sono... Alternative al digitale sulle onde medie.
Chi ha ragione? Secondo me hanno un po' di ragione entrambi, anche se come potevate aspettarvi io mi schiero con Langford. Poole osserva giustamente che la radio convenzionale rischia di spegnersi lentamente davanti all'inesorabile avanzata dell'MP3 e di Internet. Il problema, però, è che la sua è una terapia efficace ma sostanzialmente inutile. L'operazione IBOC è riuscita perfettamente ma il paziente non ce l'ha fatta. Resta da capire se senza l'operazione sarebbe vissuto un po' più a lungo.
Larry Langford (Langford Broadcast)

[...] Let’s not forget, the human ear is better than any audio meter in detecting quality changes. The ear is also very sensitive to sounds like hiss.
In case you have not heard it, that hiss sounds just like your main carrier has suddenly become weak and the noise is from the radio front end. Most people think your power has dropped.
That is just what we small AM stations don’t need: a perception of weak carrier.
Here is the biggest joke of all of this mess. IBOC supporters say we can now play music again and sound like FM, right? But in the meantime we have to narrow the analog so that the music over the vast majority of radios in use sounds worse than before. Remember why so many AMs switched to talk in the first place?
And we are supposed to pay an annual fee for the privilege of shooting ourselves in the foot?
Ibiquity is asking me to:

* Pay about $25,000 for an installed IBOC exciter, and then who knows how much the fees will rise in later years;
* Spend a small fortune to have my 20-year-old directional “optimized” for perfectly symmetrical sidebands and broad-enough response;
* Degrade my listener base by adding nasty hiss to my own signal at a time when I am already fighting a multitude of other noise sources;
* Degrade my own audio bandwidth to 5 kHz or less to allow the digital carrier to work; and
* Wait for 10 years for car radios to become popular while paying a fee each year.

It is just me, or do they take us for fools? [...]

Stephen Poole (Crawford Broadcasting)

[...]Now let’s establish some objective facts. AM competition doesn’t just come from other broadcasters nowadays; it also comes from the Web, satellites and other providers. Further, these new sources of entertainment aren’t going away. The future will bring even more competition, not less.
Even worse, the generation coming up now is all-digital. Surveys show that the majority of the under-35 crowd has little interest in FM, and couldn’t care less about AM. The younger ones prefer to get their music from iTunes, and the older ones use CDs and satellite. If they listen to “radio” at all, it’ll be a Web stream.
What does this mean? The currently available audience is getting older, and broadcasters are fighting over a steadily-shrinking pie. We’ve got to do something revolutionary to get listeners back, to win these young people who will be the listeners of tomorrow and to ensure the future of radio in general.
But the solution must be (a) technically feasible and (b) cost-effective. It has to be realistic and do-able. We have to ask: What can do with AM as it exists, in band, on channel?[...]

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