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When will other local radio stations (besides WHQR) broadcast in HD?

John Staton

It doesn’t appear that any local radio station other than public radio station WHQR 91.3 FM will be broadcasting an HD radio signal anytime soon.

But at least two of the three companies that own most of the radio stations in the Wilmington area are, at minimum, looking into adding the service at some point in the future.

“We are looking at doing it with one of our stations, The Bone,” said Paul Knight, vice-president and general manager of Sea-Comm Media, which runs rock station WBNE 103.7 FM (aka ‘The Bone’), and three other local stations.

“We’ve got a plan on the table, but there will be two or three years before there’s an (HD) audience” that will be profitable for the station, Knight said.

David Patella, general manager of Sunrise Broadcasting, which is part of the Capitol Broadcasting Company and runs six area stations, including soul/R&B station ‘Jammin” 99.9 FM (WKXB) and sports talk station WMFD 630 AM, said he doesn’t know of any immediate plans, “but we’re looking to put ourselves into a position” to broadcast HD in the future.

Cumulus Broadcasting, which owns five stations in the area, including WGNI 102.7 FM and country station WWQQ 101.3 FM, did not return calls seeking comment.

HD radio enables a station to broadcast in multiple formats. WHQR, for example, since purchasing a digital transmitter earlier this year, now broadcasts its regular mix of classical music, news from National Public Radio and local programming on both an analogue and digital signal, as well as an all-classical music version of WHQR on a second digital signal.

As for why more local stations don’t offer HD, it may be about profit.

“The cost is high,” Knight said, saying that start-up costs, including the purchase of a transmitter, can run from $125,000 to upwards of a quarter-million dollars, depending on the strength of the signal and other factors.

Vicki Stearn, the director of corporate communications for iBiquity, which created and owns the intellectual property behind HD radio, said Knight’s estimate sounds a little high, saying that she thinks that start-up costs for an FM station to start transmitting in HD averages about $100,000.

In any event, since most people don’t yet have HD radios, it’s not surprising that most stations are taking a cautious approach. At some point, it almost becomes a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

“(People aren’t) going to buy an HD radio until the programming is there,” Knight said, but radio stations, understandably, are wary of sinking tens of thousands of dollars into an enterprise that most folks don’t have the technology to access.

Stearn, of iBiquity, said that right now, the vast majority of radio stations with HD signals are in markets that are larger than Wilmington’s, “but that’s changing,” she said.

As for just how fast that will change, it would seem that those who want more local HD options will have to wait and see.

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One Response to “ When will other local radio stations (besides WHQR) broadcast in HD?”

  1. On September 22, 2009 at 1:17 pm Daeshawan Johnson wrote:

    Can you put a Adult R&B Station in Wilmington on 99.9 fm and it need Tom Joyner Morning Show on this Radio Station and it need a soul station in Wilmington NC ON A Real Radio Station and put that Jammin Oldies on a Another Station like 95.5 fm and it don’t play no R&B like it used too and i hope this station switched by January of 2010 and so Coast 97.3 to play more Hip Hop music and Remixes on that station and Wgni fm 102.7 need a top 40 music and put Sunny 104.5 fm on a strong signal and z 107.5 contined to play top 40 and it need to play little more Hip Hop and R&B MUSIC.

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