FCC Authorizes AM and FM Stations to Begin In-Band On-Channel Digital Broadcasting

At their public meeting today, the FCC Commissioners authorized both AM and FM broadcasters to begin digital broadcasting using the in-band on-channel (“IBOC”) technology developed by iBiquity Digital Corporation. The IBOC technology allows broadcasters to generate digital signals on their existing spectrum, thus avoiding the need for additional spectrum as was required for digital television broadcasting. In unanimously approving the IBOC technology, one Commissioner called this a win-win situation that will allow broadcasters to generate both analog and digital signals at the same time on their existing frequencies and without causing any additional interference, except perhaps to reading services for the blind provided on subcarrier frequencies. The FCC urged broadcasters to voluntarily resolve any such interference problems.

The digital broadcasting authorized today is expected to result in enhanced audio fidelity for both AM and FM stations and, through spectrum efficiency, will potentially allow broadcasters to provide multiple audio streams and/or auxiliary services. Of course, to implement this service, broadcasters will have to order digital broadcasting transmitting equipment and consumers will have to acquire digital receivers. At this time, however, the FCC is not providing any mandatory transition date by which broadcasters must either begin digital transmissions or cease analog transmissions, and it is unclear whether such a transition date will ever be proposed or required.

Please contact us if you would like additional information on the Commission’s decision or on digital broadcasting generally.