HD Changing The Face of Radio

Changes are underway in the radio industry. The so-called digital revolution is creating new options for listerners and programmers alike. As Charles Bornstein reports, one of the newest broadcast technologies is HD radio.

HD Radio is free, no subscription is required. But a new HD capable receiver is. Car and tabletop models are available from major consumer electronic outlets. So far, the only car manufacturer to offer HD Radio as an option is BMW.

So, what will compel consumers to adopt this new technology?

“HD Radio enables a broadcaster to augment their existing analog broadcast with a digital signal, which is very reliable and improves the quality of the station dramatically.”

That’s Michael Lyons of iBiquity Digital. iBiquity pioneered the technology behind HD Radio and licenses it to manufacturers and broadcasters. The technology behind HD Radio gives broadcasters a way to increase their programming options through multicast channels like HD-1, HD-2 and in some cases, HD-3.

“Multicast is the ability for the stations to subdivide their overall bandwidth and then transmit additional stations. In the New York market the Country station changed their format. So one of the stations decided to put country on HD-2. So, now if you’re a country listener and you want to listen in New York, it’s on HD-2.”

Some stations are even broadcasting a HD-3 signal. HD radio also provides the ability to broadcast data. The most highly touted future application of this capability is real time traffic monitoring. Ed Catlett of Delphi, a company which builds radios and GPS units for car makers and consumers, explains how such a system might work.

“You would have a receiver that would receive traffic from an HD station and then that would transform itself onto the screen so you can visually see where congestion occurs. If you get really fancy with it the navigation unit could ask you if you want to be rerouted.”

But despite all these technological advances, radio industry marketing strategist Mark Ramsey, says what will make or break HD Radio is what you can hear on it.

“There’s got to be some unique and compelling content and ideally that content isn’t of the niche variety, it’s of the global variety. Radio doesn’t exist in a radio vacuum. Radio exists in an audio entertainment spectrum which includes satellite radio, which includes ipods, which includes Internet, which includes every other imaginable way possible to get audio entertainment beyond CDs.”

Currently, close to 1200 stations in the United States are broadcasting in HD, including 21 in the Houston area. For Houston Public Radio News, I’m Charles Bornstein.



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