HD Radio Changes

UPDATE 12:08 PM 6/7/10: WKSU has added HD4 to its primary 89.7 signal, and it is indeed the “News Channel” feed available via online streaming…

Despite the availability of relatively modestly priced HD Radios – we hear the Insignia portable we’ve used is now $39 at Best Buy – there probably still aren’t a lot of HD Radio listeners in Northeast Ohio.

But it isn’t like it was in the early days of the technology, where your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) was one of probably about a dozen people who had such a radio in Northeast Ohio.

And there are some OMW readers taking note of the below changes…and probably some of the very active “anti-HD” online folks are paying attention as well, so we expect this to be linked to many such blogs…

DEEP ENGLISH: CBS Radio classic rocker WNCX/98.5 Cleveland is now speaking English on its HD2 channel.

After offering a Spanish-language music format on HD2 since the service started, WNCX is turning to a “deep cuts” classic rock companion service.

The WNCX HD2 channel mirrors other local stations which offer a variation of their primary format – like classic country on Clear Channel country WGAR/99.5’s HD2 stream, oldies on Clear Channel classic hits WMJI/105.7’s HD2 stream, and the former traditional jazz format on WNWV/107.3-HD2.

Of course, the latter format changed to AAA, and that format eventually swapped places with WNWV’s long-time smooth jazz format, landing what is now “V107.3” on the main/HD1 channel and smooth jazz on HD2.

We always commented that the Spanish-language music format on WNCX’s HD2 channel was the ultimate in narrowcasting.

Cleveland is not exactly a powerhouse market for Spanish-language listening.

The market’s history of Spanish-language format radio includes mainly specialty weekend programs on public radio, at one time on the old WXEN/106.5 (now Clear Channel hot AC WMVX), and on stations like Lorain oldies outlet WDLW/1380 “Kool Kat”, which still offers weekend programming in Spanish as part of its “International Sunday” lineup.

Now, portions of the market have full-time Spanish-language programming via two rimshot non-commercial stations.

The stations are WNZN/89.1 Lorain – with a transmitter site that itself is a rimshot into Lorain, let alone the rest of the western part of the market – and the relatively new WHWN/88.3 Painesville “La Nueva Mia”, which has fairly decent in-car coverage as far south as Beachwood along the I-271/I-90 corridor.

And then, there’s Univision O&O WQHS/61, which was basically a throw-in when the network bought stations in larger Hispanic markets. WQHS has no regular local programming, aside from the requisite local weekend public affairs show – that appears to be videotaped in the station’s lobby.

All of this is to point out that a service that required special equipment (an HD radio) in a low-density Hispanic market couldn’t have had many listeners…

MORE CHOICES: Meanwhile, public radio stations are more enthusiastic supporters of HD Radio, and most of them have split their HD streams into at least two or three different programming streams.

Kent State University’s WKSU/89.7 is splitting its HD stream four ways.

Debuting on the station’s New Philadelphia transmitter (WKRJ/91.5) is WKSU-HD4, a news/talk stream that carries a host of NPR and other public radio news and talk programming.

We’ll make the easy assumption that this is “The WKSU News Channel”, which has been offered as an Internet stream for some time.

And as such, we’ll let the WKSU folks describe it:

WKSU’s News Channel creates a full day of shows focused on news and information including stories from WKSU’s award-winning newsroom aired during NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered while adding insight from programs like The World, and news from the BBC.

With the “News Channel” addition, the WKSU HD Radio lineup mirrors the online streams listed above, assuming we’re correct about its origination…with the station’s Classical and Folk Alley streams already in place.

As of this writing, the HD4 news/talk stream has yet to make it to the main WKSU transmitter at 89.7, licensed to Kent, but broadcasting from the Akron FM/TV antenna farm not far from what’s left of Rolling Acres Mall.

A tweet from WKSU says they are in the process of rolling out the HD4 stream on all the (presumably full-power) WKSU stations, a list which also includes WKSV/89.1 Thompson. WKRW/89.3 Wooster and WNRK/90.7 Norwalk.

(Translators in Boardman and Ashland are analog only, though we know of at least one other public radio outlet in another state that has an HD-equipped translator…)


3 Responses to HD Radio Changes

  1. Tim says:

    Speaking of HD radio, whatever happened to WCPN
    Plans for HD subchannels like an all-blues and all jazz stations?

  2. Dan K says:

    I believe that WKSU is the first public station in the country broadcasting HD4… WJFK is the only station (commercial) that I am are aware of. Has anyone heard anything about HD4 elsewhere in the US?

  3. Haven’t heard about WCPN’s plan yet. They will occasionally give an HD lock on my tuner, but I haven’t seen sign of an HD2 or HD3 yet.

    And Dan, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, but I believe you’re right…WKSU and its simulcasters would be the first public radio HD4s, and the second HD4s in the country after WJFK in DC – counting WKSU as one “service”. I don’t recall hearing any HD4s lighting up after WJFK made a big deal out of theirs.

    (For those who don’t remember, WJFK offers up sister sports stations in NYC, Philly and Baltimore on its three extra HD subchannels.)

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