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Airwaves: May 30, 2008

Mexico Allows Digital

Digital HD Radio -- an amazing technological breakthrough or radio's biggest disaster, depending on whom you talk to -- will be moving South of the border soon due to a decision last week by Mexico's Federal Telecommunications Commission to allow Mexican stations located within 200 miles of the border to begin HD transmissions.

Stations must still be individually authorized to start the digital broadcasts, and in an interesting twist, must commit to assisting the commission in evaluating the technology.

In the United States, fans of HD Radio, also known as In-Band, On-Channel digital because the digital signal is sent on the same frequency as a station's regular analog signal, like to point out increased sound quality as static is removed and dynamic range increases. Detractors mention interference problems and strange sounds that can come out of the radio due to digital compression "artifacts."

Taking the middle ground as I do, being the totally unbiased person I am, I can see both sides. I actually like the sound, I like the extra channels you get on FM, and I think that HD AM sounds better than the vast majority of analog AM stereo radios ever sounded. On the other hand, interference, especially on AM and especially at night, cuts out a lot of signals, possibly destroying any chance of long distance reception that was a fun activity for me back when AM broadcast something worth seeking.

Legend Responds

A couple weeks ago, reader Andrew Shepard wrote to ask about the former star of KABC's (790 AM) morning show. "What's Ken Minyard been up to since he retired?" he asked. "Inquiring fans who miss his wit and wisdom this political season want to know."

So I wrote to Ken, and just today received this response: "If I'd known retirement was this much fun, I'd have tried it a long time ago. I think I am one of those Work to live types rather than Live to Work. I still have strong opinions on politics, particularly this season, but now I just harangue my family and friends."

What does he do? Sleep late -- for him, that is ... 6 AM. Travel, golf, occasional Lakers games, listening to satellite radio, "and generally just having a hell if a time."

Amazing, when you think of it, how much the entire radio industry has changed since Minyard left KABC and eventually retired. But that's another column ... I'm glad you're enjoying retirement, Ken. We do miss you on the radio, though.

Savage Update

John Isles of Lancaster checked in to tell me of another outlet for talk host Michael Savage: "Another source for the Savage Outrage is Victorville's KIXW (960 AM). They broadcast all three hours, 3 to 6 in the afternoons. The station calls itself "The High Desert's Talk Station.

And on a related note, the actual owner of KGIL (1260 and 540 AM) -- Saul Levine -- wrote in to clarify the recent question on whether or not San Diego's Savage affiliate was upset with a Mexican-licensed station carrying the same show. "For your information, KGIL is carrying Savage on 540 AM with the consent of KFMB (760 AM) and his syndicator," he explained. That's good news for fans, because they can now hear him twice a day in San Diego -- and elsewhere, for that matter, as KFMB comes in quite well in many parts of Los Angeles county.

Reflecting on my comment about the KGIL/KKGO-HD-3 (105.1 FM) simulcast, he added, "the AM is simulcast on HD because of the limited AM coverage. HD-3 is serving an audience that cannot receive 1260."

Fair enough, though that kind of proves my point. Can't be done now, as there aren't enough HD radios out yet. But if HD Radio catches on and AM stations simulcast their programming on sister FM HD streams, wouldn't it benefit the crowded, interference-plagued AM band for those AM stations to leave the air? What am I missing?


Copyright © 2008 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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