Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The HD Radio Hall of Shame

Here it comes again. When the XM/SIRIUS satellite radio merger was finally approved (read: when the NAB ran out of roadblocks to throw in its path), an open letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin arrived. Senators John Kerry, Claire McCaskill, and Ben Cardin were so concerned that the public has access to commercial radio that they wanted the FCC to mandate HD Radio tuners be included with every satellite radio tuner.

That didn't work. So now Representative Edward Markey and five other co-sponsoring chowderheads are bringing H.R. 7157 to the floor of the House. The bill will require satellite radio receivers have -- you guessed it -- HD Radio receivers built in. As Markey said:

"Millions of Americans today rely on local broadcast radio for news, public safety bulletins, sports, weather, traffic and other information. As the broadcast radio industry migrates to digital broadcasting technology, this legislation will ensure that consumers are able to readily receive free service through consumer electronics systems that are otherwise receiving satellite digital audio radio and traditional AM or FM stations.”
Does your head hurt yet? Let's look at that again. So this law would ensure that people who have paid for satellite radio will have an analog AM/FM tuner and HD Radio built into the receiver they buy -- which makes those receivers more expensive. And remember that the people who subscribe to satellite radio are paying for it because free radio isn't meeting their needs.

After four years of aggressive marketing and hoopla, awareness of HD Radio is a little over half of the population, and actual sales still in the gutter.

So where do all of these congressional leaders get the idea that HD Radio is central to consumer protection against a monopolistic satellite radio industry?

In 2007, the iBiquity Digital Corporation begged the FCC to mandate HD Radio receivers in every satellite radio tuner. iBiquity, the company that holds the monopoly on the technology. iBiquity, the company that isn't making a lot of money now because no one's buying HD Radio tuners, but would make a lot more if HD radio tuners were required in every satellite radio unit (even if they were never used).

Talk about an industry bail-out. This proposed mandate is neither needed nor wanted by the consumer. It's there for one reason only -- to generate business for iBiquity through legislation.

So shame on iBiquity for trying to make the government increase revenues to their monopoly. And shame on each and every congresscritter who's helping them do it.

- Ralph

Day 107 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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