Thursday, January 03, 2008

Post-holiday soundbytes

UPDATED 1/4/08

Here it is, the year 2008, and it's time to do a little post-holiday cleaning of some stories that have been missed. I didn't get a chance to write about any of this stuff,

1. Mr. K is Mr. Gone

In anticipation of their sale (again, it isn't to Mitt Romney), Clear Channel has been cleaning house at stations nationwide, slashing overhead and staff. Funny, I thought that usually happened after he corporate raiders took over. The sole progressive talk victim is at KTLK in Los Angeles, where Marc Germain, a.k.a. Mr. K, gets his walking papers. In the interim, weekenders such as Johnny Wendell are filling in. No permanent replacement has been named.

2. Stacy Taylor starts new gig today

Down the coast in San Diego, as previously reported, Stacy Taylor starts his new job today, doing the afternoon shift at XEPE (1700AM). You can hear him from 4-7PM PT (that's 7-10PM ET). Thankfully, "San Diego 1700" streams, so you can check out Taylor's show here. Like taylor's former home, KLSD, XEPE offers podcasting. Whether Taylor's show will be archived in whole, in parts or at all is unknown. And you can read a really good article about Taylor in San Diego CityBeat.

3. Apple bets on HD Radio

Earlier last year, I claimed that HD Radio would at least have a chance of surviving if two things were to happen. First, a portable device (i.e. one that runs on batteries) needs to be introduced. Second, Apple would have to get involved. Well lo and behold, Ibiquity, the bumbling company behind HD Radio, has indeed teamed up with Steve Jobs and company as Apple is getting ready to roll out HD Radio-compatible boomboxes and iPod docks at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco later this month. The new receivers will have tagging capability, which enables songs played on HD-equipped radio stations to be 'tagged' and pulled up on iTunes later, for preview and/or purchase. So far, many of the big radio station owners are working at encoding the music at their end to make it iTunes compliant.

Ibiquity has stumbled badly with HD Radio over the past few years, with product rollouts being mostly mediocre, unwieldy or overpriced. It seemed the company was more concerned about intellectual property than with putting product in peoples' hands, which has slowed down the rollout of HD Radio and gotten them some horrible press. HD Radio does have some technological issues, but all new innovations do. Those get ironed out. HD Radio in itself is not a bad idea. I've heard it and think that, with some simplification of the product, that it could work, even if Ibiquity does their best to shoot themselves in the foot. Apple knows how to create and move products that people don't realize they want. The iPod wasn't the first high-capacity MP3 player, but they soon dominated the market. Last year, they got people to pay $500 for a cell phone! Needless to say, Apple knows how to do what Ibiquity obviously doesn't. And that's pushing new technology. Ibiquity should stop being so overprotective, step back and see how it's done.

4. Goin' digital

There's only a little over a year to go until our TV dial goes completely digital. Come midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations are required to turn off their analog signals and broadcast in digital-only. if you've got an older set with rabbit ear antennas pulling in signals from the air (imagine that!), you'll get a lot of static. However, if you go out and buy a special converter box, you'll get all your local channels and then some, in crystal-clear digital (depending on where you live in proximity to the stations). January 1 was the first day that the public was able to apply for $40 vouchers good toward purchase of these converter boxes (slated to run $50-70). So, where are the converter boxes? Look for them in your favorite electronics store next month. In the past two days, the government has gotten over half a million requests for vouchers.

So, are you all confused by this? Don't feel bad, you're not alone. To boil it all down, if you already have cable or satellite service, do nothing. You won't notice anything. If you bought a new set within the past year, it's probably already DTV-compliant.

Why is the government switching off analog? The analog spectrum takes up a ton of space in comparison to DTV (not to be confused with HDTV, which is only a part of this whole technology). The rest of the world is currently in the process of doing this upgrade, and much of Europe is moving quickly to change over as well. The advantages are many, with clearer pictures and sound, multiple channels (many NBC affiliates are already carrying local "Weather Plus" side channels and public television stations already have a wide array of subchannels as well. In the near future, expect to see other stations adding more channels as well.

If you are going out to buy a new television (and the prices for DTV-compliant sets are dropping like mad), be aware. All new sets manufactured since last March are required to be compatible, but there may still be a few older units that aren't. They'll be tagged as such, but ask a sales associate to be sure. If you see older sets at too-good-to-be-true prices (like those portable $10 B&W jobs at Walgreens), chances are you'll need that converter box by next February lest it become a paper weight. See the government's site,, for more information and to apply for a voucher, or call their hotline, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-800-388-2009). You can see an earlier article I wrote here that describes the digital switchover in more detail.

Oh, and if you have one of those portable radios that pick up VHF TV feeds, they won't pick them up at all come next year. So far, there are no similar radios being made that will have that same function for DTV channels.

5. DeFede's got a brand new gig

Jim DeFede, former columnist with the Miami Herald and Miami New Times and former morning host at WINZ in Miami is back on the radio. AllAccess says that DeFede has been hired to do 4-7PM ET at WFTL in Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach. The new show starts January 7.

"I’m thrilled to be back with my own show and to be working for WFTL," said DeFde. "I came here because no other station in South Floida is as committed to local talk as WFTL. And let’s face it, living in South Floida, we all should be committed."

6. Open up the pipes

And finally, some good news for readers who would like to leave comments here but don't want to sign up for Google accounts. As part of a reconfiguration by Blogger, OpenID is now configured for LTR. Meaning that you can sign in and leave comments via OpenID-enabled services such as, LiveJournal, and AOL Journals, or even with an AOL/AIM account. You can read more about OpenID here.


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