Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Digital Problem

A new digital broadcasting technology
Is coming to terrestrial AM and FM
Stations in your area and it could
Be a big headache to Emergency Management Agency’s

By Nick Markowitz Jr.
Fire Investigator
Chief Engineer WAVL 910 AM

Several years ago a new Digital radios system technology was adopted by the FCC called Ibiquity which will allow what is known as IBOC for In band on channel technology
For both AM and FM stations AM stations using digital will have the sound quality FM Stereo now enjoys and FM will have CD quality audio. Unfortunately you will have to buy a new radio receiver to enjoy it aprox $250.00 digital also streams out info such as artists name song title news traffic etc as well to the digital radio display needless to say many possibilities will be available.
But with IBOC unlike digital TV you will still be able to listen with your older AM/FM radios to the analog output of the station. While TV analog will no longer be broadcast after 2009 with the hopes of taking the old TV analog band being handed over to expand the Emergency Services radio Service after 2009 to watch your old TV over the air waves you will need a converter. With AM/FM you will now have many options consider WAVL were I am engineer we are considering putting the Christian Music we play on the digital side while on the original analog side we can run the Praise and Worship Programs. In fact with digital you can run up to 8 separate channels of programming.
Of course if your going to run 8 channels of audio you need to fill the air time up which gives all kinds of opportunities to volunteer organizations to produce programs. Ok all you aspiring fire services program talk host start pitching your ideas.
But with all these new great digital services there is one big major draw back on the AM side
And this is noise and hash Digital produces up to 20-30 kHz on either side of its assigned channel and at night especially when the night sky wave becomes active when the 2 atmospheres go together and allow you to listen to distant cities radio station the local station you listen to could be completely wiped out by noise. If the big 50,000 watt station is on 810 AM and your local station is on 820 or 800 AM the noise from digital will wipe out the local stations signal .Now imagine you have a emergency message you need to get out during an emergency to the public to evacuate or take other measures you would not be able to get it out. The other problem is AM FM stations that are strictly digital
If an emergency message goes out you will never hear it on your analog radio while an IBOC or standard Analog station not using digital you will.
This noise problem with AM is being worked on in fact AM will probably have to shut off digital at night. But the critical 1-hour before and 1 hour after sunrise could still be a problem with the noise. All of which are being looked into. I have already written about how many stations now use total automation at night and on the weekend and how this could be a problem and now we have another potential serious problem with digital we are looking at.
As well not to mention how many people now use I Pod or MP 3 players or Satellite Radio or cable or internet radio streaming and no longer listen to AM / FM radio how do we get an emergency message to them.
The days of the old reliable town wide emergency sirens may have to be making a come back as all these new ways people get there entertainment are creating an very big mess when it comes to getting the message out.
Remember to error is Human to really fowl things up requires a computer and as technology advances 1 step forward it comes back to bite at 2 steps.

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