Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

INDUSTRY FOCUS: DIGITAL RADIO; Public Not Clamoring for It as Conversions Continue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

INDUSTRY FOCUS: DIGITAL RADIO; Public Not Clamoring for It as Conversions Continue

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BASCH

Slowly but surely -- and we do mean slowly -- Jacksonville is entering the digital radio age.

A year and a half after the first HD radio receivers went on sale, Jacksonville has two local radio stations broadcasting with the new digital technology and a third is on the way. But the operators of Jacksonville's major radio stations say they are committed to the digital conversion and you will be seeing, or hearing, more of the new technology in the next few years.

"This is kind of the basket where the radio industry has put its eggs," said Thomas Patton, station manager of WJCT (89.9 FM).

Digital, or HD, radio allows local stations to broadcast upgraded, clearer signals. Industry executives say it produces CD-quality sound for FM stations and AM signals that sound just like FM sounds now. It also allows stations to multicast data (such as song titles and artists) and additional broadcasts through its signal.

WJCT, Jacksonville's public radio station, hopes to be on the air with its digital signal in mid-July, broadcasting the same programming as it currently does with its analog signal. But Patton said about four to six weeks after going digital, WJCT plans to add a second signal that will be broadcasting classical music and fine arts programming.

"We're very excited about this," he said.

WJCT will be the third Jacksonville digital station. Clear Channel Communications Inc., which plans to have all seven of its Jacksonville stations broadcasting digitally by the end of 2006, converted WJBT (92.7 FM) and WFKS (97.9 FM) to digital several months ago. Those two stations have been simulcasting their broadcasts in digital and analog, said Norman Feuer, market manager of the Clear Channel stations.

But is anyone actually listening? In order to listen to digital broadcasts, consumers need HD radio receivers. And at this point, they're not easy to buy, as many electronics retailers don't even sell them. Spokespersons for national retailers Circuit City and Best Buy said they don't sell HD radios anywhere in the country because there isn't a lot of interest in them.

In-Stat, a technology research firm, has found through consumer surveys that people are much more familiar and more interested in satellite radio services such as XM or Sirius than in local stations' digital broadcasts. …

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