Wednesday, October 01, 2008

HD Radio Hall of Shame Revisited

Some offline comments have prompted me to revisit yesterday's post. I talked about the latest effort of iBiquity Digital Corporation, through various politicians, to require by legislation that all satellite radio receivers also have HD Radio tuners. What makes H.R. 7157 such a bad idea?

It's presented as controlling the new satellite radio monopoly. But where's the real monopoly?

Sure, if you want to subscribe to satellite radio, you now only have one choice. The operative word there is "subscribe," as in "pay for." Satellite radio is optional entertainment. You don't need it to survive (like power from the electric company). It's a premium service -- like HBO.

Don't want to pay for radio? You don't have to. There are plenty of AM/FM receivers around. And most satellite radio subscribers put their receivers in the car next to their AM/FM tuners. So satellite radio's hardly the sole source of audio that everyone must pay to get.

Sure, satellite radio plays a greater variety of music than commercial radio -- but so does your CD player, or your MP3 player, or even your smartphone.

Compare that to a real monopoly, like your local power company. You need electricity, and there's pretty much only one place to get it.

But there is a monopoly involved in this legislation, and it's the company pushing for mandated HD Radio tuners. One company -- iBiquity -- owns the patents for HD Radio technology.

That means every manufacturer who builds HD Radio capability into their products has to pay iBiquity an up-front cash payment and a license fee for every unit made. The chip manufacturers who sell the HD Radio tuner chipsets to those manufacturers have to pay iBiquity a licensing fee for each unit. And every company that makes HD Radio transmitters for radio stations has to pay iBiquity a licensing fee.

So if every satellite radio receiver has to have an HD Radio tuner, then iBiquity will get money from the manufacturers for each unit made, and from the chip makers for each chipset installed in each tuner. For a technology that most Americans (voting with their wallets) aren't particularly interested in.

Final thought: the official reason for this legislation is that by forcing HD Radio into satellite radio receivers, we ensure the consumer has a choice. So shouldn't we also require that every HD Radio tuner also be satellite radio-ready for the same reason?

- Ralph

Day 108 of the WJMA Web Watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment