January 18, 2006

FM Broadcasters Begin Digital Radio Multicasts in Bay Area

That's the headline on a press release I received this evening from the wonderful folks at Bonneville/San Francisco.

On the heels of Ben Fong-Torres' "Radio Waves" column in Sunday's Chronicle, which dealt in-depth with the coming changes in HD Radio locally (specifically "KKSF ... offers a free 'Jazz Cafe' channel; Wild 94.9 has a commercial-free dance station; KMEL ... has underground hip-hop, non-stop; and Star 101 is making a commercial-free version of the station available to HD listeners"), I think that this could lead to some interesting changes around here — especially if someone:

(1) Decides to start making affordable HD receivers, and I'm talking in the $50-$100 range so that they are affordable for everyone; and (not "or")

(2) The broadcasters and manufacturers make it easy to find and tune the stations, meaning that instead of 95.7 HD Multicast Channel 3, all you have to do is tune to HD Channel 215 (or something like that). I don't have to tune my DirecTV receiver to 497.585 GHz to get ESPN; I certainly shouldn't have to do that to receive HD Radio.

That said, here, word for word — for your reading enjoyment — is the Bonneville press release:

FM Broadcasters Begin Digital Radio
‘Multicasts’ in Bay Area

KDFC, KOIT and MAX-FM launch
Secondary HD Digital Radio Channels

For immediate release

January 18, 2006

(San Francisco) The first wide-scale launch of HD2 multicast channels begins January 23 in the San Francisco Bay Area, as traditional FM broadcasters KOIT, KDFC and MAX-FM each roll out a new, secondary format.

The three stations in the Bonneville International Corporation – San Francisco Radio Group have taken advantage of technology unique to HD digital radio to each add a new station to the HD2 radio spectrum.

KOIT, with a Soft Adult Contemporary format at 96.5 FM, now also offers an all-Oldies station; KDFC, broadcasting classical music at 102.1, will run ‘Deep Track Classical,’ longer and complete works and vocals, as its secondary channel; and MAX-FM, the home of Adult Hits at 95.7, will play all Disco, with MAX Fever, as its HD2 option.

“We essentially have three new radio stations,” said BIC-SF Regional Senior Vice President Chuck Tweedle. “All programmed locally, all commercial free, and all adding new and unique content. Listeners have more choices and more diversity than ever. This is a big step for free, non-subscription radio.”

To tune in these new stations, which are initially commercial-free, HD Radio listeners simply go to the FM dial position, then push the HD2 button. HD digital radio receivers are currently manufactured by more than 15 companies.

"The prices are coming down, and interest on the retail level is growing," Tweedle said. "You're going to see more and more HD radios in use. It's an exciting evolution of radio, and with our range of format offerings, we’re ready for it."

In addition to the new format options, all current analog radio signals are available as HD digital radio broadcasts (on HD1 channels).

Bonneville International is an award-winning, dynamic media company with radio, television, satellite, and advertising properties in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, eastern Idaho, and southern Utah. Living its three-fold mission of "People, Communities, and Profit" as a way of life, the company has a long-standing reputation and is known industry-wide for its values-oriented approach to business and programming, and for its nationally recognized commitment to serving the communities where it broadcasts.

(This article was also posted simultaneously at Radio-Info.com.)

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