April 25, 2005
KXJZ debuts digital radio in Sacramento
Fans of jazz and public radio news will be the first in the Sacramento area
to enjoy the features of digital radio. KXJZ, the jazz and news station licensed
to Sacramento State and operated by Capital Public Radio, is the first radio
station in the Sacramento area to convert to the new technology, which was
authorized by the Federal Communications Commission in late 2002.
Known popularly as HD Radio, digital radio technology lets listeners with HD radio receivers hear broadcasts free from static, hiss and pops. In HD, digital FM broadcasts have the clarity of compact discs, while AM broadcasts have the sound quality of today's FM broadcasts. Because a digital audio signal carries much more data than a conventional analog signal, stations like KXJZ can broadcast more than one programming stream through a second audio channel, as well as data such as song titles and artist names displayed as text on HD radio receivers. This enables stations to do more with the frequency they already have.
Most KXJZ listeners won't notice these features right away. The first digital radio only hit the U.S. market early last year, at a steep price. And with only one local station currently broadcasting in the format, few listeners are rushing to upgrade their equipment. Analog radio equipment can receive a digital signal, although without HD Radio's improved sound quality.
According to Michael Lazar, president and general manager of Capital Public Radio, which operates six other noncommercial radio stations in Northern California, being first in the market will give KXJZ a chance to learn about the technology while consumer demand grows. "By converting only one station to digital radio, we get a knowledge base before converting our other stations," Lazar says.
Then there are the bragging rights. "We're continuing a tradition of technical leadership," says Lazar. In 1985, KXPR, Capitol Public Radio's classical station, was the first station in the area to broadcast music recorded on compact disc.
Converting to digital radio costs between $100,000 and $200,000, far less than the millions that television stations must spend to upgrade to digital. Capital Public Radio converted KXJZ to HD radio with help from a matching grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, 52 public radio stations throughout the United States are on the air with HD Radio and another 312 public stations are planning to convert. Capital Public Radio plans to convert its remaining six stations to digital by the end of this year.
Sacramento State holds the license for six of Capital Public Radio's seven stations, including KXJZ and KXPR in Sacramento, KXSR in Groveland, KKTO in Tahoe City, KXSJ in Sutter and KQNC in Quincy. A seventh Capital Public Radio station, KUOP, which broadcasts in Stockton, is licensed to the University of the Pacific.
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