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FCC: Multichannel HD licenses still experimental-only

The FCC released a clarification on multi-channel HD Radio/IBOC digital broadcasting today, reaffirming that stations may apply for experimental authorization to split their digital signals, as some NPR stations do now with "Tomorrow Radio," but for now those licenses will still be experimental-only.

"Multicast operations do not fall within the scope of the notification procedures authorized by the IBOC Order. Thus, until the Commission modifies these procedures, licensees will be required under the rules to obtain experimental authorizations."

The commission also encouraged stations to apply for experimental licenses that chose to test the concept to send their results to the agency. Following up on NPR's previous request, new, expanded notification procedures for multichannel IBOC broadcasting will be addressed in the next Report and Order in this proceeding.

IBiquity Digital CEO Bob Struble tells RBR this is good news in that the process is moving forward. "We were happy that they highlighted the...their words were 'very encouraging results' from the NPR tests. And I think what they're doing is telling the radio broadcasters that if you guys want to start rolling this out, we will very expeditiously and easily get you authorization to do that."

Most current HD Radio receivers don't allow multi-channel reception. Which ones do? Says Struble: "There are several models coming out. Probably the most prominent is the Boston Acoustics tabletop radio. Kenwood has a product coming out, they're also offering software upgrades on their older radios so that you can have supplemental audio in those as well. So clearly, the receiver manufacturers are moving to offer the service."

How would a receiver tune to a supplemental audio station? Struble says if you keep tuning down the dial, it will tune to the second or third digital channel before it goes to the next frequency - - similar to TiVo receivers or HD TV tuners.

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