Friday, October 26, 2007

What's New?

Have You Heard?

Mobile Internet radio took two steps closer to becoming a household word this month. First, you have to select a station. Now it's easy! iHeard is a new search engine which allows access to thousands of radio stations from just one site. Other entities have experimented with this concept, but almost all of them simply refer you to the home page of the radio station. Wi-Fi listening was a laborious process.

Step one: Enter the world of iHeard. Pages and pages of stations are available with just one click! Name a type of music or talk show. iHeard has it. Who needs a shortwave radio? Pick a country, pick a station and you're there. If you like, you can also choose by musical genre, location, foreign language...the categories are endless. It is the perfect site to visit during those long, boring waits for appointments or at the airport. Your web surfing cell phone can now be a unique form of radio with a bottomless pit of programming possibilities. At home, connect your computer up to your stereo and you'll have the world on a string, literally! Check in today at:

Step two: Get in SYNC. Ford has announced the release of SYNC, an amazing in-car management system incorporating voice recognition. You can now control all your multi-media and communications devices with one computer application custom written for Ford by Microsoft. Providing you have continuous coverage of Wi-Fi, you can listen to Internet radio in your car without hassle. (Some communities have already installed public access city-wide Wi-Fi. Listening to "the stream" is closer than you think! Take a test drive at:

Let's Convert!

Rabbit ears users please note: February 2009 is growing nearer (only 15 months to go!) and the time to convert is right after Christmas 2007. {Convert from analog to digital TV, that is!} The federal government will begin issuing $40 credit vouchers on January 1, 2008 (up to two per household) to offset the expense of digital set-top-box converters for your analog TV. You may need a converter if you only view on good old analog television using an antenna. (Cable and satellite subscribers can relax. This change won't affect you!) In February 2009, all analog broadcast television will end. You'll have to watch digital TV or else! Details regarding ordering voucher coupons will soon be revealed at:

Manufacturers have already responded to this program. LG Electronics recently received official approval of their set-top-box converter to be released for sale just after the first of the year to meet the demands of the federal voucher program. The street price for the LG converter is said to be about $60. LG's converter (pictured above) will feature closed captioning, a variety of available aspect ratios, V-chip program rating filters, programming information screens and direct composite and RF inputs and outputs (no external video modulator needed!) Except for basic functions (channel change and power,) most of the LG's features require its remote control and on-screen display. Their unit is quite small and has no front panel display. It's simplistic, concise and attractive design should become a welcomed accessory. Put your analog television on channel 3 and use the converter box to view all the new (and expanded) digital television services now available. The big question: Will digital signals reach these converters as reliably as good old NTSC analog signals?

Another new product of interest: Best Buy's private label 'Insignia' is offering possibly the first hand-held portable DTV. The Insignia NS-7HTV offers a seven inch LCD screen and a built-in ATSC DTV tuner. It's been purchased on eBay for as little as $60. Friends from the WTFDA (Worldwide TV-FM DX Association) who have auditioned the Insignia have given it lukewarm reviews particularly regarding anemic reception. Even so, it's good to see the world of electronics adapting to the digital world that lies ahead.

Shock and Stop IBOC

Last month, I bemoaned the arrival of AM in-band on-carrier digital signals during nighttime hours. Lots of beehive-like noise rippled through the band often ending long-distance reception that had been relied upon for decades. Many AM radio DXers saw this move as the end of their hobby. The battle is not over yet. The first couple of weeks of operation were rocky. Listener complaints were being received from all over the country! What could be done?

One group, Citadel Broadcasting, went on record as retreating from the IBOC experiment (at least for the time being.) A dominant station owner, Citadel controls 66 radio stations nationwide. When Citadel decided to cease broadcasting IBOC signals, many listeners could again listen in peace! For local listeners, this would include Citadel's WABC 770 New York City, WJR 760 Detroit and WLS 890 Chicago. WABC and WJR certainly did strong battle with each other during their brief IBOC trial. WLS 890 is only one channel away from another IBOCer WCBS 880 in New York City. You can rest assured that their dueling IBOCs were not easy listening! WCBS, and sister station WFAN 660, have also been noted with their IBOC systems off many nights recently. The jury may still be out, but the verdict is clear: The AM Radio IBOC system needs substantial modification to co-exist during nighttime operations. The beehive noise must desist!

Another downside of IBOC 'HD Radio' is time delay. Here is an excerpt from the WCBS Radio website: "WCBS now broadcasts in high definition. It takes 8 seconds for HD to encode and then decode at a HD receiver. Consequently, the regular analog signal must be delayed 8 seconds in order for the broadcasts to synch. Also, it is not as simple as starting the time tone 8 seconds earlier to make it hit the airwave 'on time.' The issue is much more complex. However, WCBS is working to find a solution as HD radio becomes more main stream."

Editorial comment: Analog AM Radio technology dates back to before 1920. It remains an extraordinary means of delivering radio to a wide area of listeners using very inexpensive and low tech. receivers. Why reduce this amazing medium to a tentative local-only scenario that requires sophisticated expensive receivers to enjoy? It's time to scroll back to basics and allow AM Radio to do what it does so well. Put digital radio where it belongs: in a separate specially-allocated band where it can thrive on its own without the challenge of being compatible with older technologies.

Do I Rate?

What do people listen to on their satellite radios? Now we know! Recently, the Spring 2007 Arbitron ratings book was posted on the Internet revealing the winners and losers of both Sirius and XM Satellite Radio. Sirius is really Stern Satellite Radio! Howard's two channels on Sirius command a huge audience, around 1.7 million listeners a week. Compare this with Stern's alleged 20 million listeners in his heyday on terrestrial FM radio. Sirius pays dearly for Stern.

Beyond the land of Stern, the most popular channels are mainstream popular music. XM's 20 on 20 rules with over a million listeners a week, while Sirius Hits One registers about 650,000. XM's channels for 60s, 70s and 80s music have similar ratings just above 600,000. One thing for sure, XM listeners love to listen and listen at length. A telling comparison: popular Fox News has 485,000 listeners a week on XM while the exact same programming on Sirius only draws 133,000. My personal opinion: Sirius listeners prefer an expanded version of what traditional radio has to offer. It attracts younger men in droves. XM listeners seek a more eclectic and adventuresome stew and listen to their satellite radios as constant companionship. The entire report can be found at:

For some great listening fun, check out XM's 'Igor' Halloween micro-channel to be heard on XM 120 from Monday night, October 29th at 9pm through Thursday morning, November 1 at 6am Eastern time. Then, switch channels to XM 103 and begin the Christmas season early! A yuletide tradition, XM's Holly begins for a two-month run November 1 until the week after Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho! Break out the mistletoe!


Anonymous said...

New today, Karl:

"A Significant Sign in the Death of HD Radio"

"The radio industry is giving off signs that HD Radio is dead, even though we keep hearing bright comments being uttered by iBiquity execs... While the public's pulse on HD isn't beating, the latest glaze over this problem is in a rebuilt HD Radio Alliance web site to educate retailers and sales personnel on the benefits of HD Radio...This is death sign #1... As for the absence of mentioning HD Radio on any of these web sites home pages... that either comes from radio not believing in the power of the internet to sell product (which it can never admit to clients), or its lack of mentioning HD Radio comes from the beginning of the radio industry distancing itself from what's turning out to be a Huge Disaster! HD Radio's death is imminent. It's only a matter of time, if you read the signs."

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