American digital radio a half assed system: John Anderson at #CBAA13

“Digital radio… it could be worse. America is an example of how not to do it.”
Speaking at today’s CBAA Conference, Dr John Anderson, Director of Broadcast Journalism at America’s Brooklyn College, told the conference that America’s HD digital radio system “kinda works.”
Unlike DAB+ or DRM, HD Radio in America’s attempt to place analog and digital signals together in the same spectrum, explained Anderson. “It increases the spectrum and causes interference… there is no qualitative improvement in the sound quality of functionality of digital radio.”
“It is a closed system. There is only one company that owns the copyright to the technology and you pay licence fees to that company, iBiquity.”
Anderson believes that the American closed system model “stifles innovation and causes pain for small broadcasters who can’t afford it.. It is a half assed home grown digital radio technology.”
America was going to use DAB in the 1990s, but the military controlled that spectrum and wouldn’t allow it to be used. The regulator, the FCC, when it approved the use of HD Radio “basically admitted it didn’t work, but approved it anyway.”
“Adoption by broadcasters is an utter failure,” said Anderson, quoting official figures. 13% of broadcasters adopted it and the rest opted out. “Broadcaster adoption is abysmal,” he said.
From a listener point of view, Anderson showed that listener adoption is in decline. “Nobody really knows that HD radio exists, eleven years on, since it began.”
“We have to confront our digital dilemma in the US,” said Anderson.

Dr Andrea Baker talked about her research, published in her latest book Virtual Radio Ga Ga, Youths, and Net-Radio.
“Young people have told me that radio is not meeting their needs,” she said.
She identified three types of internet radio users: conservatives, swingers and radicals. “We have come a long with radio, but the whole definition of radio is now so elastic,” she said.
In a discussion session following the keynote speakers, a panel identified localism as the thing that differentiates community radio from online radio and music streaming services.
The CBAA’s Chris Johnson sees online radio as an opportunity to deliver radio through phones, internet and podcasts, in a way that will allow great radio to have a long tail of global impact beyond its broadcast date.
Chris says broadcasters should educate the listeners to use mobile platforms to remind them that radio no longer just “lives in the radio box, it lives on phones and in many places now.”