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Airwaves: May 26, 2006

One Blood

Tomorrow at 10 PM, L. A. Theater Works' The Play's the Thing will air Andrew White's Of One Blood on KPCC.

Described as a poignant and disturbing play about the infamous 1964 murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi -- James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner -- the play stars Joey Slotnick, Arye Gross and former Friend's star, David Schwimmer.

Included in the broadcast will be an interview with Rita Bender, who was married to Michael Schwerner at the time of the murder.

The play will also be available on the KPCC website,, streamed live and for one week following the broadcast.

All New?

Many people, including myself, have pointed out the flaws in the digital broadcasting system known as HD Radio. Publicized as a way to fit digital broadcasts into the same space as a current analog AM or FM station, HD Radio -- formerly known as In-Band, On-Channel digital -- tends to spread out into a station's neighboring territory.

That causes a few problems: audible interference on AM that some say may threaten the very survival of the band, and interference on FM that, while not audible, "tricks" radios into not picking up distant or weak stations that at one time came in clearly.

That's just the point, says Edward Schober in a guest commentary in a recent Radio World. Radio World is an industry newspaper designed for and marketed toward engineers. Schober says the best way to handle problems with the hybrid system, where analog and digital reside on the same signal, is to just drop analog broadcasts altogether.

"The hybrid IBOC system is a nasty compromise designed to bridge the gap from analog to digital and was never intended as a permanent solution," he writes, explaining that interference between all-digital stations on AM or FM is minimal or nonexistent. "The bottom line is that the transition to (all digital) must be accomplished in the shortest amount of time."

That has long been my opinion: that for the system to work,it must be all-digital. For AM, turning off analog broadcasts would combine long-distance reception with arguably high fidelity ... a great combination.

Only one little problem: millions of radios already in existence would become obsolete. Would you be willing to replace every radio and stereo receiver in your house and car with a new one?

Stereo Gone

KABC, the last of the major AM stereo stations in Los Angeles, has turned off the stereo signal, apparently for good. To be honest, the station hasn't really run stereo programming for a long time, they just left the "stereo beacon" on so that some capable radios would "think" they are in stereo and switch into a higher-fidelity mode.

The move is in anticipation of a switch to digital HD Radio, which is not compatible with the old analog stereo system. HD promises interference-free sound, though some observers complain that HD causes too much interference to work in the real world. Regardless, while the stereo is off, the signal still is semi-high fidelity, and still sounds nice on a good radio, unlike KFI, KNX, and KDIS which sound harsh in comparison; those three stations reduced their fidelity as part of their HD rollout.

You can expect KABC to begin HD broadcasts before the end of Summer.


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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