It has to do with audio, but it's interesting anyway

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 11 May 2000 12:27:14 -0700 (PDT)

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>Subject: Digital Beat Extra -- Broadcasting 5/4/2000
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>Digital Beat Extra -- Broadcasting 5/4/2000
>
>
>Tuning in Digital Audio Broadcasting
>
>Everywhere we turn there is evidence of the digital revolution that has
>taken hold of this country. Soon everything from cars to refrigerators will
>be connected to the Internet. Television stations have already begun to
>convert to digital technology. And now even radio, the first electronic mass
>medium, has been swept up in the digital tide.
>
>By converting audio signals into digital code before transmission, digital
>radio, or Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) as it is known, virtually
>eliminates static on the FM band and gives listeners nearly CD-quality
>sound. Any interference, however, results in a complete loss of signal. DAB
>will also require listeners to invest in totally new radio receivers because
>old analog radios will not be able to pick up a digital signals.
>
>While few people are aware that the transition to digital radio lurks just
>over the horizon, it could potentially impact the ability of new voices to
>get on the air. The Federal Communication Commission is currently
>considering different options for the eventual transition to DAB. In a
>Notice of Proposed Rule Making (MM 99-325) released in November of 1999, the
>Commission described alternative DAB system models that it wanted to
>evaluate in the proceeding. The commission is likely to choose a single
>standard by the end of this year.
>
>
>DAB Systems
>
>One of the DAB systems currently being considered by the FCC is called
>"Eureka-147" technology. This DAB is capable of transmitting multiple audio
>channels and can operate on various frequencies. Eureka 147 has been
>implemented in Canada and Europe and is the only system that offers "the
>audio quality and signal robustness performance that listeners would expect
>from a new [DAB] service in all reception environments," according to the
>Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association ("CEMA"), which oversaw
>laboratory tests of a number of DAB systems. But Eureka-147 may be difficult
>to implement in the U.S. because it does not use the FM band. It has
>generally been introduced on "L-Band," which is unavailable in the U.S. as
>it is reserved for military use.
>
>Another DAB system being explored by the FCC is In-Band On Channel (IBOC)
>DAB, which would allow radio stations to make the move from analog to
>digital transmission without having to change frequencies. This would
>minimize disruptions to stations during the transition to digital and allow
>them to remain at the same place on the dial. The radio industry, which
>wants to be able to transmit both digital and audio radio signals while
>consumers and the industry convert to digital, strongly backs the IBOC DAB
>system. In the U.S., two companies -- Lucent Digital Radio Inc. and USA
>Digital Radio -- have been competing to develop an IBOC technology that they
>hope will become the digital radio standard. IBOC DAB systems, however,
>"have still not been conclusively proven to be technically viable at this
>point in time," according to the FCC.
>
>In their comments to the FCC, CEMA, National Public Radio and public
>interest advocates also posed serious questions about the spectrum
>efficiency of IBOC DAB. Under current FCC rules, FM radio stations are
>allocated a channel that is 200 KHz wide. Since radio stations rarely use up
>the entire amount of bandwidth allocated, the extra space is often used for
>ancillary services such as reading for the blind services, Radio Data System
>(RDS) information (like song titles and weather forecasts), or even
>information for pager networks and other non-radio related services. With
>IBOC DAB, stations would be allocated a channel that is 400 KHz wide, even
>though their primary signals will not require all of this extra space. Any
>unused portion of the spectrum, referred to as 'digital side bands,' would
>be available to incumbent broadcasters to use for non-radio-related
>programming. Many broadcasters, in fact, appear to be more excited by
>secondary uses made able by DAB, than by the enhanced audio it would create.
>In its comments to the FCC, the Sony Corporation said that the broadcasting
>industry needs an "alternative pipe for the value-added services offered
>over the Internet."
>
>DAB and Small Broadcasters
>
>Because of the additional spectrum called for by IBOC proponents, there is
>concern that its implementation could hamper efforts to diversify the
>airwaves by reducing the amount of bandwidth available for new entrants.
>Advocates of the FCC's recently approved low-power FM (LPFM) service fear
>that the allocation of 400 KHz for the IBOC system would leave little room
>for low-power stations. Even in its DAB NPRM, the FCC recognized that "that
>there may be difficulty finding sufficient spectrum for the new service."
>
>In addition to the threat to LPFM, DAB could pose potential problems for
>small radio stations that are already on the air. The Small Business
>Administration (SBA) has concerns that the FCC may be too quick in pushing
>radio in the digital direction. In comments to the FCC, the SBA suggested
>that the Commission was not sufficiently aware of the financial impact that
>the digital switch could have on single-station owners and small broadcast
>groups: "The commission...offers scant reassurance that small broadcasters,
>which constitute 96% of all audio radio stations, would be able to afford
>digital equipment."
>
>The Public Interest Position
>
>If DAB is to serve the American people and not just the radio industry, then
>it is essential that the public interest ramifications of IBOC, or any other
>DAB system, are fully explored before it becomes the law of the land. Just
>as the FCC has adopted a Notice of Inquiry to examine how broadcasters can
>best serve the public interest during and after the transition to digital
>TV, public interest advocates have asked the FCC to consider increased
>public interest dividends to accompany any increased allocation of spectrum
>to radio broadcasters. Additional spectrum, which would open new revenue
>streams for broadcasters, should not be given away without consideration of
>how DAB can be used to better serve the American public.
>
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Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)