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AG News: 3/6/2006

NPR Shows Radio Industry How to Use Internet Radio

Put yourself in the position of having to provide multiple radio programs and do it properly; there aren't enough hours in a day to create quality. Yet, that's what radio programmers are being asked to do with the introduction of HD Radio. While it's nice to say "the public will soon have hundreds of additional radio programs to listen to - FREE!," sitting down to make them happen is going to prove a complex process. That is, unless you do one of two things: 1) hire more programmers, or 2) get some help.

The dilemma that faces the radio industry is how to deliver on the promise to knock satellite radio out of the sky by offering these HD Radio side channels. NPR has the answer.

National Public Radio is using some of the best programming available - internet radio. In a deal struck last August, NPR is including online-only stations in a package designed to be used exclusively on HD sidebands.

"The music streams are designed to be turnkey fillers for the additional audio channels that can be carried on a digital radio signal," according to the story linked below. These additional programs are coming from:
  • Classical music from Classical Public Radio Network, the joint venture
    of Colorado Public Radio and KUSC in Los Angeles

  • Jazz from JazzWorks, a collaboration of Boise State Radio in Idaho
    and WDUQ in Pittsburgh

  • Folk music from, a webcast produced by WKSU in Kent, Ohio

  • Triple A tunes from Philadelphia's WXPN, branded as XPoNential Radio

  • Groove Salad, electronic music from longtime webcaster SomaFM

  • Those last three indicate where the future is headed if broadcasters want to skip the process of "creating" HD Radio channels and deliver quality.

    SomaFM owner Rusty Hodges, a near-legend in the world of online radio, says: " has partnered with NPR to provide a special version of our most popular and unique internet radio channel, Groove Salad, for NPR member stations to use on their HD multicast channels. As HD multicast radio grows, we hope to expand with even more music programming for NPR."

    Rusty continues: "The special version is mostly special because it has top of the hour station identification and is scheduled so that the affiliates can insert 1 minute worth of local programming at :59 each hour (for traffic, underwriting, promotions, etc)."

    As has been the case for many years, NPR is using the medium of radio better than its for-profit counterparts. The fact was outlined here in this article. (Please pardon the generation-1 page design, as these words were written in 1999.)

    Having used the internet better than any commercial broadcaster, NPR is now moving to show how it will also best the corporate puppies by including some of the best online radio programs in HD streams.

    If radio groups don't start responding in kind by using online radio stations in their HD Radio side-channels, in a few years you'll hear all the commercial broadcasters boasting how they have better-than-satellite programming. But these "programs" will be like everything else the commercial radio industry has done lately - plenty of hype, no substance.

    NPR has found an HD Radio program solution. Commercial radio needs to follow it or continue its downward spiral.

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