Back to Wag-Net Main Page

Airwaves: September 25, 2009

Coming to an MP3 Player Near You

The iPod revolution, bringing amazingly small -- and ever-shrinking -- personal music players that allows someone to carry their entire personal music collection with them wherever they go, has been a major reason for the decline in radio listening among many people, especially teens.

Whether the decline in radio listening is caused by the availability of products like iPods or, as I believe, that bad radio has forced people to seek such products is immaterial, the fact remains that iPods and similar music players have allowed people to eschew radio totally, and in growing numbers.

In the case of the iPod itself -- estimates place the market share of Apple’s iPod line at close to 80 percent of personal music players -- radio was totally shunned -- there was no radio available. For better or for worse, most MP3 players -- and all iPods -- did not include a radio tuner as part of the design.

I don’t know if that is necessarily bad; I’ve owned a few iPods over the years and the way I use mine, I honestly cannot think of one time I felt the need for a tuner ... again, solidifying my opinion that radio drove people to iPods and not visa versa.

Regardless,with the release of the new iPod Nano, users do finally have the choice of a radio tuner -- FM only, AM need not apply -- with an interesting feature: a pause button that allows “stop action” of your favorite FM radio station for up to 15 minutes.

On a related note, the new Microsoft Zune music player called the Zune HD includes an FM HD Radio tuner, allowing users to tune into the digital FM stations that I have written so much about over the past few years, including extra channels that are sent right along with the main analog signal. Like the iPod, the Zune HD’s tuner is FM-only.

An interesting question, that FM-only thing. Why FM only? It would seem that -- especially with the Zune and its promise of improved fidelity for radio reception via its HD circuits -- especially on AM -- that the player would include an AM tuner. And wouldn’t the pause function of the iPod make more sense if you were listening to a ball game -- usually heard on AM?

Believe it or not, it’s not a slight against amplitude modulation nor a way for left-leaning Apple leader Steve Jobs to prevent buyers from hearing Rush Limbaugh. It is the basic bane of AM radio itself: interference. The same circuits that help you carry thousands of songs in your pocket also happen to wreck havoc with AM radio reception. Prevent it totally, in fact, if the player is too near the AM radio. Obviously this negates inclusion of AM into such a player for now at least, until someone can develop a filter or change the laws of physics.

But for the time being, at least, you can finally hear FM at least on the most popular player on the planet, along with the one that wishes it was.

KFI Response

Reader response to my column last week regarding changes at KFI brought in a lot of emails, all of them agreeing that KFI may be making some bad moves.

But station (and Los Angeles Clear Channel group) manager Greg Ashlock says that nothing could be further from the truth. “John and Ken will not lose their localism,” he insists, adding “there is no AM station in the country that is more important to Clear Channel’s success than KFI.”

I believe him on the last part, and to be honest, I am a huge fan of KFI. I’m just concerned that six hours of one host per day and five of another team now syndicated in San Francisco leaves them vulnerable. And to be frank, I think I’m right ... but I will be the first to admit if I am not.


Copyright © 2009 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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