column written by Mike Austerman
Last week's news that the FCC is going to allow FM stations to increase their output power from 1% of their analog output to up to 10% prompted lots of coverage. It's a polarizing issue between those that continue to promote HD as the next big thing for free FM radio and those that think the idea continues to be a horrible mistake that just keeps getting worse.
Truth be told I don't know where I stand, as I can see both sides. I guess I tend to lean toward the technology -- at least for FM -- hoping that the addition of programming can help fill broadcast holes that wouldn't otherwise be served. A quick example: In Angola, Indiana pop WLKI FM 100.3 has recently added HD2 and HD3 programming, providing the area with a sports format (ESPN Radio) and a rock format. Maybe even more intriguing, both formats are also available to analog listeners via FM translators that were recently purchased and moved to Angola. If it weren't for HD, listeners wouldn't have those extra options.
The biggest argument against HD appears to be concerns over interference. If it turns the FM dial into the mess AM has become since HD has come online, this position will be validated. My guess is that many of the protests come from owners of 'rimshot' stations that rely on listeners from nearby larger markets to help keep their stations afloat. If listeners they have today get blocked by IBOC stations, it could very well impact whether or not some of these stations survive. Is this really what the FCC wants -- fewer voices on the airwaves?
In Detroit, the situation could be even worse should HD-caused interference affect stations from nearby southwestern Ontario, which has recently added a number of FMs. Most are just two clicks away on the dial from powerful Detroit FM's that could very well increase digital power and create much more interference in Canada. It'll be interesting to see what happens if/when the juice gets turned up on local HDs.
One thing I can say without hesitation though - if all of this is going to wind up being worth it, a lot more effort is going to be needed in programming the HD2 and HD3 stations to entice listeners to upgrade their radios.
On a personal note, I pheel compelled to mention a recent loss to the radio phamily. Listeners to Phlash Phelps' morning show (6am - noon ET) on SiriusXM's 60's on 6 understand the connection he had with his beloved beagle Clyde, who was probably one of the best traveled dogs of all time. Phlash and Clyde were best buds phor over 14 years and stuck together through numerous radio gigs and together got the chance to visit 48 states, 5 provinces of Canada, 2 U.S. territories, and Washington D.C. Unfortunately, Clyde didn't make it to see his 15th birthday which would have been in June as he died on Saturday.
Phlash intends to take Clyde's ashes to both Alaska and Hawaii to complete the 50 state tour.
Listeners to the Phlash Phelps Phunny Pharm grew used to hearing Clyde's bark and amazing ability to phind nearly any song request listeners might make. While much of satellite radio can be impersonal, Phlash's program is a refreshing difference. I'm certainly proud to be a Phan and send my condolences to Phlash.
If you feel compelled, reach out to Phlash c/o XM Satellite Radio, 1500 Eckington Place NE, Washington, DC 20002.