FCC “Deliberation” of HD Radio
Although the question of whether analog and digital radio signals could peacefully coexist remained unresolved, USA Digital Radio forced the issue by fi ling a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission on October 7, 1998, asking it to “immediately make a fi nding that IBOC will be the method of transmission for DAB in the United States.” 1 USADR asserted that the adoption of any other technology would “create tremendous turmoil in the radio industry, disrupting service to the public, and impose a signifi cant administrative burden on regulatory authorities.” 2 It admitted that “a number of technical tradeoffs” would be required to make IBOC work, but downplayed their implications. 3 USA Digital Radio also claimed its technology had wide support within the radio industry, touting equity investment from 12 of the largest radio broadcasters in the United States, as well as an infusion of funding from Chase Capital Partners. 4
In reality, a minority of station-owners supported the IBOC concept, though they happened to control the majority of industry revenue. This, combined with a qualifi ed endorsement from National Public Radio, engendered a perception among regulators that consensus existed within the industry to adopt the technology. From a neoliberal policy perspective, an economic consensus was all that was necessary to sign off on IBOC’s proliferation; the FCC took many of its proponents’ assertions about the technology’s functionality and features at face value. Dissenting voices, of which there were many, were effectively placed outside the realm of acceptable policy discourse defi ned by the Petition for Rulemaking itself.