March 3, 2006

What Do You Expect, Using A CD You Get In The Mail? [8:14 pm]

CD From Minnesota GOP Also Gathers Data [pdf from NYTimes/AP]

A computer disk that the Minnesota Republican Party prepared to support a ban on gay marriage has another purpose: gathering data on the politics of the people who view it.

And that’s stirred up a technological tempest on the Internet and among Democrats who say the disk will improperly gather data from people who run it on their computers. Privacy experts say they’re concerned that the GOP won’t adequately warn users that it’s collecting the data, and they worry where the information will end up.

But GOP officials said the final version of the CD that’s due to be mailed soon to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans will contain a notice that the information gathered may be used by the party.

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Digital Radio and AM Signal Degradation [8:51 am]

Digital Signals Spark Static From AM Radio [pdf] (via Slashdot

A growing number of radio listeners are encountering similar interference — hisses, whistles or static — on their favorite AM stations. The problem for WTRI began about a year ago, when Bonneville International Corp.’s WTOP, the AM station at 1500, began using a digital signal that interfered with WTRI’s analog signal in some broadcast areas. It’s one of the unexpected consequences of the radio industry’s transition to digital broadcasts.

Digital radio is touted as broadcast radio’s golden ticket, a technology that allows broadcasters to squeeze more stations into frequencies that currently hold just one. Advocates say the technology will allow radio to better compete with niche-oriented products like Internet radio and with other entertainment technologies, like iPods.

Big radio companies, such as Clear Channel Communications Inc. and CBS Corp.’s CBS Radio, have raced to embrace digital broadcasting, adding digital signals and rolling out new programming. But that has left behind many smaller AM stations that are still broadcasting only an analog signal. They are experiencing so-called side-channel interference — a phenomenon brought on in part by the fact that AM stations are packed tightly onto the dial, with only 10 kilohertz separating each one. (The problem doesn’t affect FM stations much because they reside 200 kilohertz away from each other.)

The AM stations most affected are those whose neighboring stations — nearby on the dial — add a digital signal. In most cases, including Mr. Rizer’s, the interference doesn’t stretch into a station’s core coverage area, as defined in its Federal Communications Commission license. But in fringe areas, signals can be fuzzy, or lost entirely.

[...] Critics question why Ibiquity’s technology is the only terrestrial digital-radio technology approved by the FCC.(Digital radio transmitted by satellite is a separate issue.) Ibiquity’s IBOC technology “allows…our domestic radio industry to transition to a digital radio future without requiring more spectrum,” says Peter Doyle, chief of the audio division at the FCC. That advantage more than makes up for any shortcomings, he says.

One critic is Leonard Kahn, a New York-based radio engineer and patent lawyer who has developed a hybrid digital-radio system for AM — Kahn Cam-D — that he says is better than the IBOC system, in large part because it doesn’t cause interference on neighboring stations. Several stations around the country have bought the Kahn system to boost their signals. Last month in federal court in New York, Mr. Kahn filed a lawsuit against Ibiquity, along with Clear Channel, alleging antitrust violations. Clear Channel declined to comment because it hasn’t yet seen the suit. A Ibiquity spokeswoman said “we are in the process of reviewing it.”

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DoJ Follows Spitzer Into Digital Music Pricing [8:43 am]

Federal Probe Is Said to Focus on Music Pricing [pdf] ( see also DOJ opens probe into online music pricing: sources [pdf] )

The Justice Department has served or is expected to serve the nation’s four major music companies with subpoenas stemming from an investigation of online music pricing, said sources at the companies, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The subpoenas mirror a probe launched last year by New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer is examining clauses in music label contracts with online music services, such as Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store, that guarantee competing labels get the same prices for their music.

Some critics suggest that the clauses threaten the legitimate market for online music just as it is taking off, potentially raising the standard 99-cent price customers pay for tunes.

Music executives believe that they will prevail, citing similar clauses in other industries.

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Gropig Toward An Online Video Model [8:34 am]

Shows on Web Have Been More Miss Than Hit [pdf]

Yet for all their success in television and movies, they are grappling with a fundamental question: What defines a hit on the Internet?

[...] That confusion became all the more apparent Thursday when Yahoo Inc., an early favorite to navigate the complex 21st century media landscape, said it would scale back efforts to create original entertainment offerings. The decision was a turnaround for Lloyd Braun, the former ABC television executive hired in 2004 to run the company’s Santa Monica-based Yahoo Media Group.

For months, Braun spread the word that he wanted to capture mass audiences by producing new Web programming to be seen only on Yahoo. With Thursday’s shift, Braun acknowledged that his views about what it took to succeed online had changed.

“Our focus is not doing a string of one-off hits like the TV model,” said Yahoo spokeswoman Joanna Stevens, who added that the company would instead highlight content created by its millions of users as well as serve as an online distributor for traditional media companies.

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