When Nielsen accepted an invitation to appear at this year’s IEEE Broadcast Technology Society Symposium, we thought at last there would be a technical discussion of PPM encoding challenges, Voltair’s impact on PPM, and an explanation of the new “enhanced” encoding.
It was not to be.
Nielsen’s Arun Ramaswamy showed up last Friday with the same well-worn PowerPoint stack we’ve seen before and delivered a virtually identical defense of PPM that Nielsen first delivered to its clients on July 21st, again on October 1st at the NAB Radio Show, and a third time on a client call October 8th.
There were a couple of new “eye candy” type slides (see below), but the message was the same as before, as was the continuing absence of specifics regarding missed listening or how “enhanced” encoding solves the problem.
At a technology symposium with topics such as “First Field Testing of Proposed ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer Technologies” and “Using an Improved Two-Ray Calculation to Determine the Source of Fresnal’s Constants,” Dr. Ramaswamy’s presentation was out of place full of empty vague generalities.
Dr. Ramaswamy spent the first 14 slides of his 19 slide presentation explaining the basics of encoding–-this to an audience of well-versed broadcast engineers.
It’s clear from four virtually identical presentations that Nielsen believes that there is nothing more to add regarding PPM’s performance, accuracy, or reliability.
It’s always worked as designed. Stations got all the listening credit they deserved. Nielsen is now making it even better, and we don’t need to know anything more than that.
And one more thing. The success of Voltair had nothing to do with any of Nielsen’s actions. The encoder enhancements were just a natural evolution of PPM.
In the past Matt O’Grady, Nielsen’s managing director for local media, has reminded radio that Nielsen owns PPM, and that apparently means radio doesn’t need to know anything other than the happy news that the company is willing to share.
The one difference between this presentation and the previous three was a brief opportunity for questions.
Based on the tone of those questions and Dr. Ramaswamy’s defensive responses, we weren’t the only people who thought the presentation failed to address the issues that radio engineers had hoped to learn about.
It begs the question: why did Nielsen show up at all?
Was it because Dr. Barry Blesser, the creator of Voltair was there to speak on the challenges of watermarking?
Did Nielsen want to blunt any impact that Dr. Blesser’s message might have on radio engineers? If that was the goal, Ramaswamy’s pitch did just the opposite.
Dr. Blesser’s talk offered a much more detailed and nuanced technical explanation of watermarking as it applies to PPM. He raised issues that should alarm anyone who’s career depends on PPM.
We’ll cover those points in a coming post.
In announcing the “enhancement” roll-out Nielsen O’Grady declared that Nielsen would be open and transparent about the changes to PPM. If Dr. Ramaswamy’s talk at a technical symposium is any indication, O’Grady’s idea of openness and transparency makes Kim Jong-un look like an open book.