This past weekend Greater Media’s 1110 WBT Charlotte, NC conducted a pair of overnight digital-only test broadcasts. The purpose of the test was to see how well the digital signal covered the market without having to contend with its analog counterpart while attempting to eliminate electrical interference.
Thanks to WBT’s directional 50kW nighttime signal that blankets much of the east coat, we were able to listen in on Sunday morning with nothing more than a loop antenna hooked up to our tabletop HD receiver. Being 600 miles away from the transmitter, we weren’t able to keep a lock on the digital signal, but when it did come in it was crystal clear as you can hear in the aircheck below.
Being a long distance listener was nice and all but means absolutely nothing in the big picture. As long as the station’s signal covers the Charlotte market is all that matters. Hopefully this and other tests will allow the industry to come a consensus over whether moving to all digital is a viable option for an industry wondering what to do to the revitalize the AM band.
In the time I spent listening to WBT’s digital test, I also was getting the HD indicator to recognize the digital signal of 1120 KMOX St. Louis, but was unable to lock onto it. Both frequencies received interference from a Cuban station on 1120. 1100 WTAM Cleveland’s signal was unaffected by the digital test on 1110.
Simply shutting off analog and going all-digital is great in theory, but how will implementation actually happen? HD Radio has been in operation for over a decade and just now are automakers starting to offer them in cars. Now you’ll need to see every station agree to upgrade their transmitter and every receiver replaced or have a converter added by an arbitrary date. Good luck on getting the FCC, radio industry, auto industry, chipmakers, and receiver makers all agree on something. Now try explaining to the average 65 year old listener of an AM talk station that he needs to replace his radio to keep being able to listen to Rush Limbaugh. We’ll still be here waiting in ten years or so while you do that…