Back to Wag-Net Main Page

Radio AM to FM: December 7, 2001

Is the World Ready for Digital Radio?

Differing views on the potential success of iBiquity's In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) digital AM and FM system have sparked an interesting debate recently. On one hand is the side that feels digital radio -- or digital FM to be exact -- won't make it for many of the same reasons AM stereo failed, while the other side sees sunny skies for the technology because, unlike AM stereo, broadcasters have a real incentive to adopt the technology: money.

Aaron Read argued in a recent Radio World that there just isn't enough of a difference in sound quality for consumers to buy new receivers. And if consumers don't buy the required digital receivers, then there would be no point for broadcasters to go digital. Further, if broadcasters don't go digital themselves, then consumers REALLY won't buy new receivers ... creating the same vicious circle that doomed analog AM stereo. Radio World is an industry newspaper focussing on engineering.

Read also sites the apparent (so far at least) failure of Eureka digital transmissions in Europe, that were supposed to eventually completely replace the old AM and FM bands. If consumers didn't buy the new radios there, why would they here, he implies.

There is, however, another side to it. Digital AM sounds quite a bit better than analog AM radios of today. As good as, or better than, analog FM. If programmers actually take advantage of that fact, music could return to AM and help sell the new radios. And those radios would also feature digital FM.

Additionally, broadcasters have a reason to go digital that is fully outside of traditional broadcasting: wireless data transmissions, such as services for handheld personal assistants or smart phones. In other words, a new source of income. Once enough broadcasters go digital, receiver manufacturers would most likely include digital AM and FM tuners as a matter of course.

Me? I'm staying out of this one for now.

Gift Guide II

Last week's holiday shopping guide brought a few more ideas in the mail from reader David Schwartz of cable's Game Show Network, along with a few that wouldn't fit previously.

"How about the book on Don McNeill and his Breakfast Club? Schwartz asks. Written by John Doolittle, "it includes a CD of highlights from his popular radio show. Or maybe some of the new packages of old time radio shows from"

Other interesting books include Jim Cox's 1999 Radio Soap Operas or a his new one on Great Radio Audience Participation Shows, covering such programs from the 1940s and '50s, along with the great 1998 story of top-40 radio from Ben Fong Torres, The Hits Just Keep on Coming.

For the radio junkie who really has everything? A subscription to Don Barrett's daily radio news, feature and rumor page, Worth far more, a one-year subscription costs $36.

Random Thoughts ...

... from a cluttered mind: When KFI (640 AM) used the phrase "talkradio" in their early days of the format, KABC (790 AM) claimed the word was a trademark and sued, eventually settling for an agreement that the phrase would not be used as KFI's name (i.e. "Talkradio KABC" was ok, "talkradio KFI" was not) That's why KFI started their "more stimulating" slogan. Now that KLAC (570 AM) has moved to talk and begun using the phrase "Talkradio KLAC," will KABC try to reclaim their trademark again? ... Is there anything more annoying than a Jeff Levy commercial? ... How many free things does KFI's John Kobylt get each week in exchange for all those live commercials? ...

... Happy birthday wishes to Joni Caryl and China Smith today ... and Joe Benson on the 10th.

Until next week ... same bat time ... same bat channel ...


Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

To subscribe to The Daily Breeze, call (310) 540-5511