Part 2: Can HD Radio Be Saved?


This is Part Two in a pair of Blogs on HD Radio. On Friday I brought up six possibly insurmountable aspects about HD Radio we broadcasters can not ignore any longer. They were:

1 – Wrong name. “HD” is already very much in use. The “HD” spot in our brains is taken.
2 – Who’s driving what little interest there is? Not the listener.
3 – First impressions are too often lousy.
4 – HD is a response to a non-problem.
5 – Enough already. Stop applying the paddles and let the patient alone.
6 – Either HD is a complete bust or the hundreds of millions in Radio advertising to promote the technology is at fault.

Make no mistake, any of those six on its own should be a deal-killer or product exterminator. But the soap opera drags on like a root canal.

In this post I will be as blunt and to-the-point as I was on Friday.

Can HD Radio make it? If so, how?

1 – Until the FCC mandates HD on every radio receiver, HD Radio will be a hobby, not a business. I can’t say it any more clearly.  Is it a waste of time to belabor a hobby? You tell me.

2 – Since HD is nothing more than free and extra channels, I’m guessing some very bright after-market Einsteins would love working on this. When all is said and done, could it be that HD is nothing more than the 2008 version of sidebands?

3 – Perhaps an out-of-the box idea like the recently announced Navteq real-time traffic application will have legs. Or, does your listener go to Circuit City and spring for a $150 TomTom because he can’t figure out the HD dial – and — with his own GPS he can keep his favorite radio station tuned in while multi-tasking his way home? 
Is the brand new Electronic Program Guide idea a keeper? Only if the Programs are worth being guided to. And will broadcasters resist the EPG wrinkle listeners will insist upon: grouping channels and stations by format, just like many Cable clickers. How do you feel about being next door to your closest competitors, left and right? Your listeners will demand this feature if there is EPG.

4 – National shows and networks either not on the air today or broadcast on inferior signals. Wouldn’t The Disney Channel sound great on HD in every market? That could be an incentive to sell a few hundred thousand new receivers.

National or Local, listeners have to care about what’s being programmed.

5 – The HD Dial/Display has to be fixed. Maybe this is part of what can be done on the EPG, above. From an engineering standpoint it made sense to think in terms of stations hd-1, hd-2, hd-3, all traveling along the same audio road from the transmitter. But we know with absolute certainty the present day nomenclature is not intuitive and not listener-friendly (sort of like the word, “nomenclature”).

6 – Finally, until the FCC mandates HD on every radio receiver, HD Radio will be a hobby, not a business.
Until then, we’re all just tinkering in the garage on weekends.  So ask yourself, how much more of your industry’s reputation, time, and money do you want to spend on this hobby?

What’s on your mind? If you have 300 words or so of commentary on a topic of interest to broadcasters, send it to [email protected]. If possible, also send a photo of yourself.