The FCC yesterday announced that it will consider Digital Audio Broadcasting at its meeting on July 13. While many radio stations are already operating with Ibiquity‘s In-Band On-Channel operating system, that operation has been under interim rules adopted by the FCC while the Commission continued to consider the permanent rules for the service. All multicast operations by FM stations have been under "experimental authorizations."
There remain a number of substantial issues to be considered by the Commission. Perhaps the most substantial is whether or not to authorize AM nightime digital operations. Also, there are a number of issues related to other interference issues, as well as the request of the recording industry that the system include an "audio flag" to allow for the adoption of technologies that would prevent copying of music off of the over-the-air digital streams.
Washington rumors have indicated that the Commission’s consideration of the rules has been delayed by debates over whether to adopt standards for the public interest obligations of radio broadcasters on their second and third multicast channels. According to these rumors, the Democratic Commissioners have wanted public interest obligations to be in place before the multicast service was authorized on a permanent basis, while the Republicans had preferred to consider those issues on a seperate track. Perhaps, with the third Republican commissioner now in place, any impasse which may have existed can now be resolved.
The notice of the meeting indicates that there will be yet another notice of Further Rulemaking, as well as a Second Report and Order. Thus, it appears that certain issues will still not be resolved on Thursday. It will be interesting to see which issues are deferred for yet another day. Seemingly, with Congress considering audio flag legislation in its rewrite of the Telecommunications Act, and as an audio flag for digital television was struck down by the Courts as being beyond the Commission’s statutory authority, that may well be one issue that is deferred. And the issue of public service obligations for the multicast channels may be another of the deferred issues. With these important issues yet to be resolved, we may well see some robust discussions, and perhaps some delayed Fourth of July fireworks, at next week’s meeting.