Are HD broadcasters playing nice?

Here’s a first glance at the HD radio choices of a Clear Channel station near you.

At present, each terrestrial station will have two HD channels: Their current station in HD and a new one. Check the link for the new ones, and get ready for the fireworks to come.

Remember that, as things now stand, the new digital channels will be located at the frequency of the existing analog station. So, in some sense, one would expect the “family members” at that address to be…well…related.

Not necessarily so.

Based on this list, there’s no doubt that formats are being selected as competitive weapons with only limited interest in rounding out niches surrounding the base format for which that frequency is home. In some cases the intention is clear: Stick a knife in your competitor’s back.

Examples:

Atlanta Rocker WKLS’s secondary channel is AAA, which is not an open format in Atlanta – in fact, it’s essentially intended to compete against CBS Radio’s DAVE FM. How this creates “more choice” for the listeners is not clear to me.

Likewise, WJJZ in Philadelphia, a Smooth Jazz station, will feature AAA on its secondary channel – a format which has nothing whatsoever in common with Smooth Jazz and, again, is not open in the market. Coincidentally, however, it’s a frontal attack on the highly successful public station WXPN.

True, there are many other cases where formats are genuinely different from conventional offerings, if not exactly novel. But it couldn’t be clearer that HD will be a new battlefield where the intent of the broadcaster will be to draw the blood of their competitors. We will try to eat our young.

Meanwhile, certain channel choices are inspired: For example, WWDC will feature “Elliot on Demand” (that’s their high-rated morning show). Looping Elliot on an alternate channel is unquestionably a good idea (although I would argue that should already exist on a thing called the world wide web). This kind of idea, however, is contingent on having the type of quality content which makes it possible. And the fact that such a concept appears once on this list speaks volumes.

As you evaluate this list as a listener, ask yourself the big question:

Do you want to buy a new radio?

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