Reading all of the hoopla about Rep. Ed Markey’s proposed radio Receiver Act I was hopeful for what would be a level playing field among AM-FM-HD-Satellite. Everyone on the same receivers … all teams created equal … sing the National Anthem … do the coin flip … let’s get started!
Then, I read the proposed bill. You can, too, at http://markey.house.gov/docs/telecomm/hr7157_final_text.pdf
It is a very short three pages.
What at first appears to be a boon for Terrestrial radio might well be something very different.
I hope this was just an oversight, but the Markey bill would require local HD radio signals on all Satellite receivers, true. Only when the traditional/terrestrial/regular AM and FM signals are on the receiver, too.
“So what?” you say. “Who would ever build an in-car radio receiver without AM and FM? Nobody smart would ever do THAT.” Perhaps. But, there is this line of i-stuff from Apple; the most successful group of personal electronic products in a generation. And, while they play radio-like things, they do not have AM or FM radios, per se. If Toyota or Ford hires a pretty smart guy named Steve Jobs to fashion their in-car electronics, he very well could opt for all digital and drop FM-AM. Again.
Or, as RBR worried on Thursday, “ONE OF THE FCC MERGER CONDITIONS WAS THAT THIRD PARTY MANUFACTURERS BE ALLOWED TO BUILD RECEIVERS WITH AS MANY BELLS AND WHISTLES AS THEY WISH. BUT THIS BILL, SHOULD IT BE PASSED, MAY INSPIRE COST-CONSCIOUS MANUFACTURERS TO PROVIDE AN MP3 PORT OR SOME SUCH THING AND SIMPLY BYPASS TERRESTRIAL RADIO ALTOGETHER.” And, if so, how will we hear about Local emergencies? Local news? Tornado funnels? Traffic backed up on the Interstate for eleven miles? School closings? Local sports scores?
Those of us who were in Radio 25 years ago remember the AM Stereo fiasco. Briefly, there were four competing systems which were, generally, not compatible with each other. Instead of selecting one standard as they did with color TV and FM stereo, the FCC opted for “the market” making the decision. Bad idea.
See if this sounds familiar: “…the market never got "saturated" with radios. So not many people had them and that’s why still today not many will remember "AM Stereo". Some say that if the FCC would have mandated a particular system, then the market could have been flooded with receivers and more manufacturers could have manufactured them….”
That is, of course, the HD Radio problem today; the market never got saturated with HD radios, even after six years.
Instead of a horse race to the car dashboard, let’s learn from the AM Stereo mess.
Rep. Markey should re-title his bill, “The All Radio Channel Receiver Act,” and mandate FM, HD, and AM on all new satellite receivers. Listeners could subscribe to one band while receiving the other three without monthly fees.
Dear Radio: Are you ready to go head-to-head with satellite on the same receiver? What does your future look like if Internet access like WiMax were added or mandated? MP3?
–Bob Harper, www.BobHarper.com