Radio AM to FM: May 23, 2003
Ever since the FCC allowed radio stations to implement a form of digital In-Band, On-Channel broadcasts, a small but vocal group of engineers, station owners and radio observers has tried to spread the word that digital is not always better and that in this case, especially with AM, analog sounds much better.
It appears that others are beginning to take note. A subcommittee of the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC), a group co-sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), has temporarily suspended standards setting due to poor audio quality on the AM system.
Ive heard samples, and in my opinion the subcommittee is correct: IBOC in its current form is not suitable for broadcast, at least on the AM band. Comparisons with audio samples from good analog AM stereo or wideband AM mono tuners put the IBOC system to shame.
Whether or not it can be fixed is the big question, as Ibiquity has been working on this system for years and many observers thought it was broadcast ready when the FCC approved the system on an interim basis earlier this year. The other big question: how will the announcement affect the rollout of IBOC radios, which were expected to appear on store shelves sometime soon.
One of my favorite web sites is Uncle Rickys Top-40 Radio Repository, which features airchecks of radio stations from across the country, focussing on the 1960s and 70s, though the span actually goes as far back as 1931.
Some are scoped, meaning that they have most songs and commercials cut out in order to focus on the personality, while others are unscoped ... you can listen as if you traveled to the past.
New selections include The Real Don Steele on KHJ from May 18, 1968 and a wonderful example of wideband (hi-fi) AM audio with WNBC/New York from August 1988.
Looking further into the catalog, I found a couple that interested me: Dave Diamond playing adult hits on KIIS (now KXTA, 1150 AM) from 1973, and Johnny Scott from KYNO/Fresno in 1968.
The KIIS recording is a flashback for me, as I recall riding with my sister in the 64 Impala wagon listening to KIIS her favorite station of the time. The KYNO recording, on the other hand, is an example of my favorite DJ of all time before he became my favorite DJ ... Scott is none other than Bobby Ocean, formerly of KHJ and K-WEST.
Hear them all at www.reelradio.com.
Taking On The FCC
In spite of pressure from the public, some members of Congress and even two of his own commissioners to delay a vote on proposed revisions to media regulations, FCC chief Michael Powell says that the vote will take place as scheduled on June 2nd.
The delay was requested officially by FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathon Adelstein so that a public airing and public reaction -- of the proposed rules could take place before the FCC votes on them.
Little is known about the changes outside the FCC, though they are not expected to affect radio much. Essentially, what worries critics is the possibility that the proposed changes might make other media similar to radio under the deregulation of 1996, wherin the industry became controlled by a handful of companies.
Imagine a company like Clear Channel controlling every newspaper and most television stations in Southern California ... you can bet this column would be gone.
OK, maybe some changes would be for the better.
In a related note, John Rook, former programmer of WABC/New York, WCFL/Chicago and KFI/Los Angeles is taking on the FCC and media giants on his web page, www.johnrook.com. In it he acuses members of the FCC of conflict of interest, and essentially charges them with not performing their primary duties: protecting the publics airwaves.
An interesting read, and perhaps an eye-opener for some. Well worth the time.
Copyright © 2003 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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