High-definition radio draws nearer to Oahu, requires special receiver
HONOLULU'S four FM radio stations owned by Texas-based Clear Channel Communications Inc.
will be bringing additional formats to the market as the parent company expands its high-definition, or HD, radio service.
HD radio is a digital signal that is broadcast separately from a radio station's analog signal. Listening to HD audio requires a special receiver, the cheapest of which are priced in the hundreds of dollars.
KSSK-FM 92.3, which plays adult contemporary music, will add a mainstream country format; KIKI-FM 93.9, which plays urban hits, will add electronica; island music KDNN-FM 98.5 will stream the news and talk programming from sister-station KHVH-AM 830; and KUCD-FM 101.9, an alternative rock station, will add smooth jazz programming.
The four Honolulu stations were part of Clear Channel's announcement yesterday that 18 of its markets would be getting 76 new program streams in the coming year, though no exact date is available.
Clear Channel announced in January that Honolulu would get the HD upgrade in 2007.
About half of the radio stations owned by Atlanta-based Cox Radio Inc. have HD signals, but the technology has not yet been installed in Honolulu, where it owns six radio stations.
"We don't have a specific date" for the upgrade, said Mike Kelly, vice president and general manager of the local stations. There will be a meeting next month to discuss additional formats for the stations.
"The beauty of HD, when it happens, will be that you'll have increased formats to listen to. ... I think it's great for the consumer because they're going to have lots of choices," Kelly said.
Salem Communications Corp., based in California and with seven stations in Honolulu, did not respond to inquiries.
The Clear Channel stations had the choice of programming their high-definition signals locally or selecting from the company's Format Lab. The Hawaii stations chose the additional music formats from the lab, said Chuck Cotton, vice president and general manager.
The added programming stream also provides more advertising time to sell, but Cotton said the stations will run commercial-free for the first 18 months.
That stations are broadcasting in HD is one thing, but there aren't very many people listening. HD radio receivers have come down in price from $1,000 to $500 to the current $300 for a Boston Acoustics tabletop model. It's not something you can clip onto your pocket and listen to with white earphones.
The HD Radio Alliance, comprised of broadcast groups and related companies, is working to increase public awareness of the technology and locations where various types of receivers can be purchased.
Automakers are also being pushed to add receivers.
"In the consolidated (radio) industry, we have the ability to do some things and make promises that individual broadcasters and the (National Association of Broadcasters) couldn't do in the past," Cotton said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org