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AG News: 6/19/2006

About HD Radio Press Releases and Programming

While visiting each link on my list of online radio industry trade magazines, I stumbled across this article from Radio & Records about it becoming our new "One-Stop HD Radio Info Shop." According to what's written, R&R is debuting a new feature titled "HD Radio New & Active," to "spotlight new HD Radio sign-ons, provide HD news and direct you to articles in the paper that are focused on HD Radio."

As someone who looks for news about HD Radio daily, I'll point out that this may prove to be more of a challenge than the editors at R&R think. But, give them the benefit of the doubt, let's take a quick look at what they are focused on this week: "the crystal-clear, commercial-free, straight-ahead jazz available 24/7 on Clear Channel's WSMJ-HD2/Baltimore."

At one time, before HD Radio was being pushed by the industry, I said that HD Radio needed to stream its content so listeners can sample the product. I'm beginning to change my mind on this because of what's being uncovered when listening to a variety of online HD Radio stations.

Since Saturday, 6/17, I've been streaming WSMJ-HD2 through its online link. That it is solid music won't be challenged here. Though I will challenge calling it "radio."

Here's what I've uncovered about Clear Channel's WSMJ-HD2. It has just 18 liners positioned between every other song, except at the top and bottom of the hour when, sometimes, you'll hear three songs in a row. These are the positioning statements they use:

The artists that gave birth to the cool - played 24/7 on Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
Jazz - America's own music, Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone, you can never capture
it again - Jazzville 104.3 HD2
Digital HD2 is Jazzville - 104.3 HD2
Showcasing the world's greatest players - Jazzville - 104.3 HD2
The world's greatest jam sessions - now yours, 24/7, on Jazzville 104.3 HD2
WSMJ Baltimore, this is Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
Welcome to Jazzville - population 88, 104.3 HD2
WSMJ - Baltimore, this is Jazzville 104.3 HD2
The sounds of traditional jazz - Jazzville - 104-3, HD2
Now entering Jazzville, where the kids are sharp, the beer never flat,
and black and white make harmony - 104 HD2
Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
WSMJ Baltimore, this is Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
World class jazz. You're listening to Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
Baltimore's only traditional jazz station is in digital stereo, Jazzville, 104.3 HD2
The Jazz masters live on (unintelligible) - HD2
The world's best jazz, and no second-hand smoke - Jazzville 104.3 HD2
Entering Jazzville - home address of Byrd, Train, Monk, and Miles - 103.4 HD2
Set 'em up Joe, and take me to Jazzville 104.3 HD2
- the home of world class jazz.

When the above play through, they repeat. That's enough said about the programming of this new, exciting, HD2 radio station.

You decide if this is "radio," or some variation of jukebox music. Then, ask why a person would spend money to buy a new receiver to listen to what's offered. Not being a jazz aficionado, I won't comment on the music other than to say the playlist was repeated. But, so what? Songs have to repeat, eventually.

The "content" listed above is what will separate good stations from bad. And if this is all that's being offered by Clear Channel, then it's off to a very weak start in HD2 Radio programming. (I'm still wondering what is meant by "When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone, you can never capture it again....")

Meanwhile, back at Radio & Records, this trade mag brings up a point of contention in its newly-posted "comprehensive HD Radio Station Links page." As of 6/18/06, R&R has 285 HD Radio stations listed which claim to be "on air" with HD signals. But the number of stations there does not jive with what iBiquity Corporation is telling us at its web site - that there are "822 HD Radio stations on the air in the US."

I trust Radio & Records. It would never print a negative story about the radio industry and, therefore, must be telling the truth when it says this is a "comprehensive" list of HD2 stations.

As for the iBiquity web site, any company that claims to be backing a huge publicity push, yet has only two items posted in the last thirty days in its "press release" section, isn't putting all the news out. Or maybe, there isn't any real news, which means that Radio & Records will be hard-pressed to keep us informed about the progress of HD Radio with weekly updates.

From: Matt J.

I've read w/ interest your blog about 'What is radio anyway?'After looking
a little deeper into the HD Jazz station you referenced and a little further
into your article sparked something in my head. Radio should be fun. Fun
to listen to and fun to do. Where's the enjoyment for the listener? Where's
the man or woman behind the mic thrilled to facilitate the fun that's radio?
You can drop change into a juke box, you can program your iPod, and you
can 'program it and forget it' your signal, but you can't replicate conection
that between someone who knows and loves entertaining and the listener.

From: Phil L.

I was always under the impression that if it ain't broke don't try to fix it.
I was with a friend who just purchased a new $400. digital car radio so we
monitored several stations in this area that were broadcasting in "HD" I'm
definitely not impressed. People have complained about multipath but when
you are driving into certain questionable areas the digital stream stutters
and stalls then the radio switches back to the analog mode which in many
cases is not in sync with the digital signal. When we got more than twenty
or thirty miles away from the transmitter, the digital signal was gone.
As a former station owner and engineer, I would not waist any money or effort
to go digital. I can see certain advantages with AM but that won't work at night.
With the FM "HD" system it also increases the amount of undesirable "AM"
noise in the main analog FM signal.
When a better system is available, let me know, in the meantime,
I wouldn't waist my money or time doing digital radio.

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