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Neither US, UK media falling in love with digital radio

Posted on: 02/11/2008

HD Radio has seen its ups and downs in the press since before the format even launched. After a few years of being loose in the consumer wild, the medium is still in its developmental years, according to some HD Radio operators.

DAB Radio, HD Radio’s overseas sibling tech, has received a similar response. Today, the UK’s Guardian and the Washington Post both take aim at digital radio technology, and neither source appears too pleased with the results.

Marc Fisher, writing at the Washington Post, has some praise for a handful of HD radio’s programming options (like WTOP’s “radio-like” style and offerings), but says the overall experience is lacking.

“[W]hile there are nearly two dozen HD-only streams now broadcasting under Washington FM stations, most are automated jukebox services playing just the hits with none of the added value that distinguishes radio from its Internet competition,” Fisher writes.

Referring to it as “The Betamax of radio”, the UK Guardian positions DAB as a technology “already overtaken by the Web.”Even with strong reported sales, DAB operators are beginning to voice doubts about the tech.

“‘Everyone is too frightened to say it publicly, but we would all hand back DAB tomorrow if we could. It has been overtaken by new technology,’ says says Richard Wheatley, chief executive of the Local Radio Company. “The way everything is moving it [radio listening] much more likely to move to internet radio than DAB.”

Back in the States, a recent Bridge Ratings study shows that 75% of those surveyed had heard of HD radio. But only 13% could say what HD radio is, and even less were interested in owning an HD radio player.

The study echoes the sentiments found about both countries’ digital radio technologies: mobile and online listening will make a bigger impact.

“Based on what we know now,” the Bridge Ratings study concludes, “we do not see HD Radio as a significant contributor to boosting listening to terrestrial radio.”

Read the UK’s Guardian here, and the Washington Post here.

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