HD Radio refers to a brand of digital radio technology that transmits digital sound. While people assume that the “HD” referes to High Definition as it does in “High Definition Television,” HD acutally stands for Hybrid Digital which means it’s transmitting both analog and digital signals at the same time. HD Radio has been chosen by the Federal Communications Commission as the standard for local area broadcast of digital signals in the U.S. because it offers multiple programs on one channel and works on the same frequencies allocated to analog (FM and AM) radio stations.

Primarily used to provide “CD quality” music, HD Radio is the first step in digitizing the radio spectrum. While listeners don’t have to subscribe like they do to satellite radio, special receivers are needed to pick up HD stations at this time. Eventually, it is expected that all radio broadcasts will be digital, although the FCC has not set a timeline for that migration.

Right now, since most HD broadcasts are focused on music, this new technology hasn’t yet impacted PR professionals pitching stories to news and talk programs, however, when the FCC outlines a timeline for all broadcasters to move to the HD platform, that’s when PR pros should really take note. There is great hope that this technology will allow easier tracking of stories through digitized search and retreival, long a difficult process in radio.

Submitted by Lynn Harris Medcalf,
Executive Vice President, News Generation, Inc.

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